Air University Review, March-April 1967
Colonel Raymond S. Sleeper
The Spearhead for the spread of Communism was forged in the
the promise of cybernetics
This tool seems to offer the means to optimize the continued development and growth of the power of Soviet Russia, the subversive capture of free nations, and the establishment of worldwide educational, technological, military, and space superiority. But more important, cybernetics is now seen by some Soviet authorities as the means of facilitating the optimum (Communist) control of the complex system of states, peoples, and resources of the world which the Communists hope will result from Communist world domination.
Simply stated, cybernetics involves purposeful control of complex dynamic systems. Dynamic systems are those systems which can react to or adapt to a changing environment. In practice, the Soviets appear to be classifying almost any subject that has to do with information and control in man, machine, and society as cybernetics. Cybernetic systems, as opposed to automatic devices, are capable of responding in a predictable orderly manner to changes in the environment. An example of a crude cybernetic system is the home furnace that responds via thermostatic control to changes in temperature for the purpose of maintaining a reasonably constant temperature in the home. One of the first complex cybernetic systems developed was Norbert Wiener’s design of a system to link radar through a computer to a battery of automatic fire-controlled antiaircraft guns.
In facing this extremely difficult problem, Wiener realized that the complex system he was designing performed the same functions as a skilled skeet shooter who acquired the target, tracked it, allowed for an appropriate lead, and fired. The skilled marksman achieved a high degree of accuracy. Knowing that biological systems (man or animal) could adapt easily to rapidly changing environmental parameters, both external as in the case of the skeet shooter and internal as in the case of an athlete whose body adjusts to give him a second wind, he often consulted with neurologists and others to determine if he was on the right track in his basic design philosophy. There were several instances in which he found direct analogs between the behavior of his gun-laying systems and certain characteristics of the nervous systems.
Wiener’s great achievement was that he was able to synthesize existing technology and ideas into a basic conceptual framework that unified this technology to produce a high degree of control in any type of complex dynamic system. The basic elements of this concept are
(1) A well-defined goal or end state to be achieved.
(2) Sensors to detect changes in the environment, i.e., temperature, velocity, chemical reactions, learning states, etc.
(3) Communications nets connecting all elements of the system to assure information flow.
(4) Logic units to process the information flow according to criteria contained in the goal (1).
(5) Control units that are responsive to decisions from the logic center (4), which adjusts system units to the desired states as information from (1), (2), (3), and (4) changes.
Wiener felt that this scheme was basic to the control of all complex
systems—technical, biological, or social. The Soviets regard the
Cybernetics, as it developed tinder Wiener and in the U.S.S.R., imposes a rigid discipline for clear thinking upon both the theorist and the practitioner. If a true cybernetic approach to problem solving is adopted, the planner must first define his goals and criteria for their achievement as clearly and with as little ambiguity as possible.
the thrust of cybernetics in the Soviet system
The thrust of cybernetics in
On the biological side of cybernetics one sees interesting developments, such as the “iron hand” which attaches pneumatically to the stump of the arm and, through electrodes connected to the stump muscles of the forearm, picks up myocurrents generated from the contraction of these muscles, which then control the opening and closing of the hand. There are many other devices which link the nervous system to machines, and vice versa. One example is the biostimulator, which uses the recorded muscle movements of a sharpshooter to provide programmed electronic sleeves for automated rifle training instruction. This device is slipped over the arms and torso and electronically “stimulates” the proper muscles of the student soldier to emulate the sharp-shooting techniques of an expert rifleman recorded in the simulator. Another device, the Soviet sleep machine, is claimed to produce a relaxed state, or sleep, which provides more rest than an equivalent amount of normal sleep. This device is used in medical treatment for a variety of symptoms. Soviet cybernetics includes, in addition to biologic and physiologic control techniques, a broad program of research in neurology, psychology, and related fields, especially those areas which have the potential for technological application and behavior control.
The Soviet concept and program of the “new man” involves the “creation” of a
wholly superior type of individual. It begins with the separation of numbers of
young children from their families at the ages 1 to 6 years. These children are
trained in some 800 special boarding homes and schools, separated from their
families. Estimates vary, but it appears that 1,500,000 to 2,500,000 children
have been entered into this program. The training and education of these
selected children has been called the “technocratization of youth” in
At the machine level, the applications vary from guidance systems for missiles to automated power distribution centers for controlling the flow of electric power between widely dispersed nets so as to eliminate costly, redundant power generation.
But it is at the socioeconomic level that one sees the major innovations
being attempted in the
It helps us some in taking a serious view of these Soviet activities when we
realize that such very large modeling and attempts to structure society are
actually beginning here in the
One interpretation of the Soviet effort describes the purpose of cybernetics in the U.S.S.R. as “threefold: improved military and civilian technology, rationalization of the economy, and mechanization of intellectual tasks.” l But it is likely that the main thrust of Soviet cybernetics is much more encompassing. For the central argument of the Soviets is that cybernetics can work only in a “socialist” society:
As distinct from capitalist countries where the various firms create, each for itself, separate automated systems of control, under socialism it is perfectly possible to organize a single, (integrated) complex, automated system of control of the country’s national economy. Obviously, the effect of such automation will be much greater than that of automating control of individual enterprises. 2
Probably this is the key to the major difference between the Soviet purpose
in cybernetics and the purpose in the West. Not so much that the Soviets are
already beginning to apply cybernetics to the optimum control of the entire
Soviet society but that they are aiming to reconstruct society through the
widest possible application of cybernetics and eventually to employ it as the principal
system of Communist control of the world. Some observers of the Soviet scene
have responded with ridicule; others have simply stated that such a grand
scheme is impossible. Perhaps the most common reaction is that Soviet
technology cannot possibly support such a plan in
But there are indications of steady Soviet progress: “Soviet science is ahead in the analysis of random-processes of shooting and random process representation; Soviet science is generally superior to U.S. science in the fields of detection theory, parameters, prediction and estimation, and the analysis of phase-keyed systems in the presence of fading; and Soviet science can be said to be slightly ahead of the U.S. sciences in the overall fields of cybernetics, logic algebra, automated theory, and pattern recognition.”4 And cybernetics seems to have given the Russian leaders a new vision of the utopian future of Communist social progress. For they now see in cybernetics, they think, a means to stimulate progress and to integrate advances in all fields of science. Again, the most fundamental and overriding point is that through cybernetics the integration of scientific progress now enables the construction of the ideal Communist society in Russia as well as throughout the rest of the world. 5
To restructure the Russian society, to establish a system for the optimum
control of Russia, and to embark upon the study, plan, and implementation of a
control system aimed at the restructuring of the societies of the world so that
they will dovetail into a cybernated Communist Russia is a fantastic task. The
task was not undertaken lightly. A comprehensive study was conducted from 1959
to 1961 for the purpose of determining the broad structure of the program and
its consonance with Marxism-Leninism. Then in June 1962 the Soviet Council of
The general structure of the program has been analyzed and ably presented by
Professor John J. Ford of
Anyone with a deep interest in Soviet developments who wishes to understand Soviet activities through the next 10 to 20 years must take into consideration the Soviet cybernetics model. Scholars who continue to employ traditional concepts of Soviet behavior will surely be missing an important part of the picture.
The plan encompasses the development of a pattern for sociocultural, material-technical, and ideological subsystems. Each pattern must provide a “nervous structure” and “control center.” Similarly, each must be automatically operative but adapted to the goals of the “brain.” Harmonious transition of the parts toward a higher degree of centralized organization of social structure is thus insured. 6
This 20-year plan is based on the thesis that social (and biological) change is inevitable, but more important, the social change should be purposeful and progressive (i.e., toward Communism). To quote Professor Ford:
The strategy for social progress dictated by this general model calls for the establishment of a “nervous system” to tie together the system’s “sensors” of internal and external environments at all levels with the highest decision centers which can then determine optimal (in relation to system goals) courses of action and then transmit information to the effector organs of the social system (ministries, production complexes, schools, defense installations, people and so on). The cycle is then repeated. If the new behavior of the system brings it closer to the goals thereof as predicted, or moves away therefrom because the prediction was incorrect, the sensors once again detect the change and transmit the information upward in a continuous process analogous to that by which a helmsman steers a ship toward its destination.7
A model of world social structure seemingly visualized in this description is not attractive to most Americans, since it is deterministic and authoritarian. However, from a Communist viewpoint the whole process of “national liberation” and revolution involves the destruction of “capitalistic institutions” and the development and erection of Communist institutions in a purposeful mode.
transition of “capitalist societies”
to “socialist societies”
The transition of “capitalist societies” to “socialist societies” is the central aim of world Communism. It is the object, the content, and the substance of Communist activities across the world.
There are Communist parties in some 105 nations of the world. In certain countries there are more Communist parties than one, but for our purpose we will assume these parties are factions and that ultimately these factions either coordinate, cooperate, or are controlled by the dominant party in their struggle for take-over of the specific country.
Some 16 of these 105 nations are now controlled by the Communists. Each of the 16 is in fact ruled by the Communist Party therein. It is generally accepted that the world Communist movement is no longer monolithic but that polycentralism and a system of “World Commonwealth of Communist Nations” is evolving and expanding through subversive aggression.8 In spite of these and other doctrinal changes, a Marxist-Leninist model exists for the stages of Communist penetration and takeover in a target country. This doctrine elaborates five steps (called “stages” in Marxist-Leninist doctrine) in the “transition to a Marxist-Leninist Society”:
Step One is infiltration into the target country and the formation of a Communist Party.
Step Two is the infiltration of Communist Party members into the target country’s key institutions, parliament, political parties, unions, industry, communications services, police, military forces, and other important elements of the national life. The members who infiltrate the key institutions form units that are called fractions.9 When fractions are formed in most of the key institutions, a united national front is then organized to coordinate policy and action among all the fractions.
Step Three is the decision to seize power. According to the doctrine
there exist both the objective and subjective situations in a target country.
The objective situation is the current real-life situation in the target
country. The subjective situation is the “power” of the Communist Party.
Evaluation of this power involves assessment of the number of hard-core members
and their deployment throughout the target country’s key institutions, together
with the power that the members exert over the nation by virtue of the National
Front. The doctrine states that when the subjective situation of the Communist
Party is in favorable balance with the objective situation in the country as a
whole, the decision is then made to seize power.10 This does not
mean that an attempt to seize power is made at this time, but the decision is
made. Then the action committees are organized and prepared for the eventual
take-over. The process of determining the favorable revolutionary balance
situation is obviously an extremely difficult and complex process. It is clear,
for example, that the Communists misjudged the revolutionary balance in
Step Four is to seize power. This step is initiated with the announcement of the time when power will be seized—and the timing is critical. The action committees are then armed, and direct operations are initiated against the anti-Communist, non-Communist, or national power in being. Insofar as possible, the Communist Party attempts to present this “seizure of power” in the light of a national revolution, a national uprising, or some similar camouflage for the Communist take-over. 12
Step Five is to consolidate the Communist control of the nation. This involves the progressive elimination of all anti-Communist, uncooperative control and influence in the nation and leads to the purges. This is the sort of operation we saw in China when Mao Tse-tung instituted his program to “let a hundred flowers of internal criticism grow,” and then when internal criticism appeared the critics were eliminated.13 It is the type of purge we have seen in Cuba since Castro seized power.
It may be claimed that our model for Communist subversive aggression against free nations is too simple. Communist manuals, doctrine, pamphlets, and publications have devoted hundreds of thousands of pages to the elaboration of the tactics and techniques of take-over, or the “transition of power from the capitalistic monopolies to the working class,” as they call it. The basic Communist bible, Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism, devotes over 500 pages to the subject. There have been many variations in this model, and there will be many more. But how can cybernetics serve Communist subversion and take-over?
The key step in the process is the decision and timing of the take-over. Note the relationship that must be satisfied for the Communist take-over: One could write this very simply as
where P represents potential for take-over, S the subjective power of the Communist Party in the target country, and 0 the objective situation in the country itself. Now it can readily be seen that experience will be necessary to determine the proper values of P for evaluating take-over potential. It can also be seen that the quotient of S divided by O is essentially a summation of the Communist potential for takeover in each of the key institutional structures as related to the stabilizing anti-Communist elements in the country. It is the problem of measuring Communist potential for take-over in a national power structure sense that “scientific programs” using statistics, content analysis, sociological and anthropological social structure analysis, and experience factors, that we see as the task for cybernetics. The process can be shown as the objective situation deriving from real life in the target country feeding into the reference model (the Communist model) and with effectors and sensors from the Communist Party in its central role of subversion, take-over, command, and control, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Model for Communist take-over
The tremendous upheaval and social reorientation of
Through a series of trade and finance agreements
the Castro Regime has moved toward the adaptation of
Thus one sees the total social, economic, and cultural restructuring of
Under a cybernetic scheme the Communists need not export traditional
ideology. Instead they need to export “scientific social changes” which fit the
cybernetic model of the economy and sociological structure of scientific
Marxism-Leninism now being built in
the drive for military superiority
The Soviets have consistently pushed for worldwide military superiority. Stalin supported this goal, and so did Khrushchev, on balance.
Some top American nuclear scientists believe that Soviet nuclear weapons
technology is at least equivalent to if not ahead of
We were somewhat surprised in 1948 that the Soviets copied our B-29 (which they called TU-4). More surprising was that they built a significant number and built them at the expense of more rapidly rejuvenating the war-torn civilian economy.
Through the 1950’s the Soviets built modern fighters in large numbers, built bombers, and then moved into building and deploying ballistic missiles.
There is no question that the U.S. Minuteman and Polaris missiles remain superior to those of the Soviets, but the Russian weaponeers are not resting on their laurels. According to Hanson Baldwin, they are continuing to develop and deploy large numbers of new weapons of widely varying types.15
The Soviet development of new missiles appears to be most dramatic, and the evidence is that they are also developing new aircraft (e.g., the AN22, a huge transport) and modernizing their army and navy. The 1965 spring military parade in Moscow and again the 7 November 1965 parade showed new generations of ICBM’s, IRBM’s, “global rockets,” and anti-ICBM missiles, as well as many new army vehicles.
The Soviets apparently are building and deploying all these weapons. It is important that we recognize that they can, that they have the economic power to do so. In 1962 Secretary of Defense McNamara elaborated before Congress the new missiles, aircraft, antimissile missiles, agricultural improvements, and civilian consumer improvements that could be made by the Russians and then concluded that they could not do all these things—that they must make a choice. It would seem that they have made the choice at the expense of the civilian economy and that they have moved rapidly forward in strategic weapons.
One of the primary strengths of the Soviet R&D and production program is the use of scientific planning (cybernetics) throughout their weapons programs. Scientific planning, gaming theory, optimum solution of complex problems, development of block-aggregate computing systems, creation of the scientific basis for the synthesis of automatic control, and hundreds of similar subjects, all pertinent to the most modern techniques of scientific planning and development of aerospace weapon systems, appear in Soviet cybernetics literature.16 The hypothesis is suggested that analysis of overall Soviet power must now take into account the increased efficiency of the early applications of integrated cybernetic systems optimized for the creation of Soviet military and national security.
Similarly, cybernetics can be seen to impact on the Soviet space effort.
the thrust in space
Soviet work in space probably started in the early Forties with the work of Tsilkovskii, the Soviet Goddard. In the late Forties and early Fifties it appears that the basic technologies and vertical firings of components were accomplished. In the late Fifties we saw the first Sputnik and the beginning of the Soviet space spectaculars. Figure 2 shows the Soviet concentration on spectaculars—manned flight, near-earth orbital work, and some military and military support types of programs. There has been little direct evidence that any of these spectaculars will lead to direct Soviet military space capabilities, but there have been repeated Soviet references to the military uses of space. One of the first we saw was in Major General Pokrovsky’s book, Science and Technology in Contemporary War, published in 1956, in which he refers to the coming importance of the war in space. Since 1957 there have been innumerable Soviet references to orbital bombardment, orbital rockets, rockets from spaceships, attack or delivery of weapons from space, and the like.
Figure 2. Soviet space firsts
It would seem prudent to assume that the Soviets plan to use space for
military purposes as rapidly as possible. The Soviet space effort is
huge—surely as large as if not larger than that of the
Such major steps in space could not be taken except for the progress that the Soviets are seeking through cybernetics. This has been recognized by Soviet scientists and has been openly stated by several. A description of the impact of Soviet cybernetics on their space program is included in V. Denisov’s “Cybernetics and the Cosmos” (1962). Denisov describes the active flight of “The Cosmic Ship,” its automatic control features, and its manual control features. But, “No matter what the degree of automation of the engineering process of controlling the cosmic ship, the managing and organizing role always remains with man. Hence, we must deal with complex cybernetic ‘man-machine’ systems in space ships. . . . Man is the controlling element or operator in the ‘man-machine’ system and the machine is the controlled object.” Denisov goes on to describe the working of the cosmic ship in detail and then projects developments into the future: “It can be that the foot of man will not take the first step on other planets, . . . but the foot of a cybernetic automaton may.” He then goes on to extend man’s influence into the cosmos through travel and communications, basing his predictions on progress in cybernetics as well as in astronautics and related sciences.
In cybernetics there is unquestionably a promise for improvement of the
welfare of all humans. Robert Theobold, author and economist, proposes a
minimum basic income for all adults in
There is not much question that cybernetics is seen by the Soviet elite not only as the path to Communist utopia but also as the road to development of a worldwide system of socialist states under Communist control. This view is reflected even by the American Communist Party.
Is there an inner compulsion in technological
development which will transform the private appropriation of profit in
If we wish to follow events in Soviet Russia and developments in worldwide
Communism reasonably intelligently, we should begin to view them in terms of
the changes wrought by the massive cybernetic program in
These are interesting questions that only time and intensive analysis will answer. Most Americans, if given the choice, would vote for the redundancy, individualism, flexibility, and optimization of private opportunity as opposed to the centralized authoritarian-imposed optimized control. However, the parameters of redundancy, individualism, flexibility, control, optimization, purposefulness, and private opportunity may have to be subjected to the burning crucible of public discussion and definition in the light of national interests before we have a national understanding of both the benefits and penalties of the promise of cybernetics to America and their portent in the world arena.19 We cannot begin to discuss and understand the national and international potential of cybernetics unless we devote adequate effort to the job. And this we are not doing—at least, not at a level of effort that is competitive with the Soviets.
The Soviet effort and progress are a definite technological threat to the
Unless we Americans as a people, and we in the Air Force in particular,
understand these momentous trends, we may not have much choice. The system
could be imposed upon us from an authoritarian, centralized, cybernated,
world-powerful command and control center in
Foreign Technology Division, AFSC
1. Roger Levien and M. E. Maron, “Cybernetics and Its Development in the
2. C. Olgin, “Soviet Ideology and Cybernetics,” Bulletin of the Institute for the Study of the U.S.S.R., February 1962, from Kommunist, Vol. 37, No.9 (June 1960), p. 23.
3. Roshan Lal Sharma, “Information Theory in the Soviet Bloc,” June 1965, pp. 1-2, a study done for the Foreign Technology Division by McGraw-Hill, Inc.
5. A. I. Berg, “The Science of Optimum Control,”
6. John J. Ford, “Soviet Cybernetics,” a paper presented at Georgetown University Symposium on Cybernetics and Society, 19-20 November 1965.
8. Tan F. Triska, David O. Beim, and Noralou Roos, “The World Communist
System,” Stanford Studies of the Communist System,
9. “Party Fractions in Non-party Organizations (Fronts),” International Press Correspondence (INPRELOR), 27 February 1924, and V, 25 (April 1925), 340-43.
10. Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism, (second impression;
11. Ebed Van der Vlugt in Asia Aflame discusses earlier unsuccessful
attempts of the Communists to seize power in
12. Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism, pp. 585-620. Note that the manual describes many forms of the “transition to a socialist revolution.”
13. Roderick MacFarquhar, The Hundred Flowers Campaign and the Chinese Intellectuals (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1960). Some may criticize the author’s conclusion that this Chinese Communist criticism campaign became a general Communist purge technique. Of course, self-criticism has become an accepted feedback system of communication throughout the Communist countries and in certain instances clearly has led to severe purges for the fundamental purpose of optimizing Communist control.
14. “The Castro Regime in
15. Hanson W. Baldwin, “U.S. Lead in ICBM’s Is Said To Be Reduced by Buildup
16. Text of a Resolution Passed at the Third All-Union Conference on
17. Robert Theobold, Free Men and Free Markets, Chapter 3.
18. Richard Loring, Communist Commentary on the Triple Revolution (
19. Dr. Richard Bellman, “Russian Progressive Cybernetics and Its Relevance to Military Power,” a study done for the Air Force by McGraw-Hill, Inc.
Colonel Raymond S. Sleeper (USMA;
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this
document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression,
academic environment of
Home Page | Feedback? Email the Editor