J Storrs Hall is at the DARPA workshops for physical intelligence. It turns out they are trying to advance the concepts of entropy and cybernetics. The picture is an example of cybernetics from wikipedia.
I’m currently at the Proposer’s Workshop for the program, and it turns out that what they’re actually talking about is a lot more like cybernetics. The “thermodynamics” they are talking about is a bit more like the entropy in information theory (Shannon, you will remember, was a student of Wiener, founder of cybernetics). The term cybernetics itself isn’t much used anymore but the reason is more historical than anything else — there was a strange soap opera that broke up the intellectual cadre of cybernetics in the 50s for personal reasons, and computers and symbolic AI stepped into the vacuum, but the core discoveries are still valid.
There’s a chapter about cybernetics in Beyond AI, including the soap opera.
Darpa’s latest venture, called “Physical Intelligence” (PI) is to prove, mathematically, that the human mind is nothing more than parts and energy. In other words, all brain activities — reasoning, emoting, processing sights and smells — derive from physical mechanisms at work, acting according to the principles of “thermodynamics in open systems.” Thermodynamics is founded on the conversion of energy into work and heat within a system (which could be anything from a test-tube solution to a planet).
In thermodynamics, entropy is a measure of certain aspects of energy in relation to absolute temperature. In thermodynamics, entropy is one of the three basic thermodynamic potentials: U (internal energy), S (entropy) and A (Helmholtz energy). Entropy is a measure of the uniformity of the distribution of energy.
The thermodynamic entropy S, often simply called the entropy in the context of thermodynamics, can provide a measure of the amount of energy in a physical system that cannot be used to do work.
Cybernetics is the interdisciplinary study of the structure of regulatory systems. Cybernetics is closely related to control theory and systems theory. Both in its origins and in its evolution in the second-half of the 20th century, cybernetics is equally applicable to physical and social (that is, language-based) systems.
Cybernetics is preeminent when the system under scrutiny is involved in a closed signal loop, where action by the system in an environment causes some change in the environment and that change is manifest to the system via information / feedback that causes the system to adapt to new conditions: the system changes its behaviour. This “circular causal” relationship is necessary and sufficient for a cybernetic perspective.
Example of cybernetic thinking. On the one hand a company is approached as a system in an environment. On the other hand cybernetic factory can be modeled as a control system.Contemporary cybernetics began as an interdisciplinary study connecting the fields of control systems, electrical network theory, mechanical engineering, logic modeling, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, anthropology, and psychology in the 1940s, often attributed to the Macy Conferences.
Other fields of study which have influenced or been influenced by cybernetics include game theory, system theory (a mathematical counterpart to cybernetics), psychology (especially neuropsychology, behavioral psychology, cognitive psychology), philosophy, and architecture.