_EP: 09

EP 9: Cybersyn In Silicon Valley

As Fernando conquers Silicon Valley, Stafford seeks refuge in the tranquil Welsh wilderness. Ironically, Pinochet's journey to the origins of Cybersyn culminates in his arrest. With the dawn of democracy in Chile, vestiges of the past persist. But what has happened to Cybersyn's Ops Room?

_Episode Notes

02 : 06 "The Guardian’s Andy Beckett explains"

Beckett, Andy. Pinochet in Piccadilly: Britain and Chile's Hidden History. United Kingdom, Faber & Faber, 2003, covers this subject well. On the transfer of Chilean ideas to the UK and the US, see this article: Kemmerling, Achim, and Makszin, Kristin. "Repackaging in South–North Policy Learning: The Chilean Model of Pension Reform as a Lopsided Exportschlager." Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice, Routledge, May 2023, pp. 1–18, available here.

02 : 41 "enamored of this free market utopia"

This fascination with Chile among the British neoliberal circles is also discussed in this excellent work: Ledger, Robert. Neoliberal Thought and Thatcherism: 'A Transition From Here to There?'. United Kingdom, Taylor & Francis, 2017.

03 : 23 "His name is Alan Walters"

In addition to Andy Beckett's already-cited book, Alan Walters is well-covered in Saith, Ashwani. Cambridge Economics in the Post-Keynesian Era: The Eclipse of Heterodox Traditions. Germany, Springer International Publishing, 2022, p. 258. The book dubs him the "Thatcher Boy in Chile." 

10 : 37 "That Erhart connection remains a thorn"

Fernando Flores appears in this video about Erhard and EST: Erhard, Werner. "Werner Erhard and Associates, a Brief Look, 1982, Part 1." YouTube, uploaded by wernererhardandest, 24 Aug. 2010, available here. Some context on EST can be found in this article: Laycock, Joseph P. "Zen Meets New Thought: The Erhard Seminars Training and Changing Ideas About Zen." Contemporary Buddhism, vol. 15, no. 2, Taylor and Francis, July 2014, pp. 332–55, available here. The Mother Jones article offers an early critique of Erhard: Gordon, Suzanne. "The Hunger Artist: Let Them Eat EST." Mother Jones, December 1978, available here.

17 : 04 "During an important lecture"

The lecture has been published - see Beer, Stafford. "I Am the Emperor — And I Want Dumplings." Systems Practice, vol. 2, no. 3, Sept. 1989, pp. 267–85, available here.

20 : 00 "Understanding Computers and Cognition"

See Winograd, Terry, and Flores, Fernando. Understanding computers and cognition: a new foundation for design. United Kingdom, Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1986. Also see Fernando's reflections on the book 12 years after it was published: Flores, Fernando. "Information Technology and the Institution of Identity." Information Technology & People, vol. 11, no. 4, Emerald Publishing Limited, Dec. 1998, pp. 351–72, available here.

21 : 25 "The critics of The Coordinator "

The most famous critique of the kind came from Lucy Suchman. See Suchman, Lucy. "Do Categories Have Politics? The Language/Action Perspective Reconsidered." Proceedings of the Third European Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, September 13-17, 1993, Milan, Italy ECSCW '93, pp. 1–14, available here. Flores and Winograd responded to their critics in this article: Winograd, Terry, and Flores, Fernando. "On Understanding Computers and Cognition: A New Foundation for Design." Artificial Intelligence, vol. 31, no. 2, Elsevier BV, Feb. 1987, pp. 250–61, available here.

22 : 46 "One prominent critic"

See Ulrich, Werner. "A Critique of Pure Cybernetic Reason: The Chilean Experience With Cybernetics." Journal of Applied Systems Analysis, vol. 8, 1981, pp. 33-59, available here.

36 : 17 "corporate workshops"

A behind-the-scenes look into Fernando's coaching is offered in this article: Rubin, Harriet. "The Power of Words." Fast Company, Dec. 31, 1998, available here.

37 : 12 "He's written about technocracy"

See his book: Thomas, William. Rational Action: The Sciences of Policy in Britain and America, 1940-1960. United Kingdom, MIT Press, 2015.

38 : 38 "his own spiritual awakening in Toronto"

Our interview with Joe Truss offers an interesting insight into Stafford's activities in Toronto.

72 : 50 "including, apparently, Peter Thiel"

Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, is on that list as well. Even though they didn't interact much at the time, Winograd was Peter Thiel's master's course advisor, signing his course signup form every quarter (personal communication with Terry Winograd). On Winograd's influence on Silicon Valley, see Fisher, Lawrence M. "Siri, Who Is Terry Winograd?" Strategy+Business, Spring 2017, Issue 86, available here.

73 : 47 "the room was still there, untouched, in May of 1974"

This was related to me by Guillermo Toro, who oversaw the administrative side of Cybersyn before and after the coup (sadly, he passed away a few weeks after our interview). Guillermo had kept the keys to the room until he left his job at CORFO. He confirmed that no changes to the room had been made after the coup.

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