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The Macy Conferences were a set of meetings of scholars from various disciplines held in New York by the initiative of Warren McCulloch and the Macy Foundation from 1946 to 1953. The principal purpose of these series of conferences was to set the foundations for a general science of the workings of the human mind.[1]

It was one of the first organized studies of interdisciplinarity, spawning breakthroughs in systems theory, cybernetics, and what later became known as cognitive science.

Overview Edit

The Macy Conferences were organised by the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation, motivated by Lawrence K. Frank and Frank Fremont-Smith of the Macy Foundation.[2] The participants were leading scientists from a wide range of fields. Casual recollections of several participants stress the communicative difficulties in the beginning, giving way to the gradual establishment of a common language powerful enough to communicate the intricacies of the various fields of expertise present.

The scientists participating in all or most of the conferences are known as the "core group." They include:[3]

In addition to the core group several invited guests participated in the conferences. Amongst many others:

Some of the researchers present at the conferences later went on to do extensive government funded research on the psychological effects of LSD, and its potential as a tool for interrogation and psychological manipulation in such projects as the CIA's MKULTRA program.[4]

Conference topics Edit

This is a sampling of the topics discussed each year.[1]

1946, March (NYC)
1946, October (NYC)
1947, March (NYC)
1947, October (NYC)
1948, Spring (NYC)
  • Formation of "I" in language
  • Formal modeling applied to chicken pecking order formation
1949, March (NYC)
  • Are the number of neurons and their connections sufficient to account for human capacities?
  • Memory
  • An appeal for collaboration between physics and psychology
1950, March (NYC)
1951, March (NYC)
  • Information as semantic
  • Can automatons engage in deductive logic?
  • Decision theory
  • Small group dynamics and group communications
  • The applicability of game theory to psychic motivations
  • The type of language needed to analyze language
  • Mere behavior vs. true communication
  • Is psychiatry scientific?
  • Can a mental event that creates a memory ever be unconscious?
1952, March (NYC)
  • The relation of neurophysiological details to broad issues in philosophy and epistemology
  • The relation of cybernetics at the microlevel to biochemical and cellular processes
  • The complexity of organisms as a function of information
  • Humor, communication, and paradox
  • Do chess playing automatons need randomness to defeat humans?
  • Homeostasis and learning
1953, April (Princeton)
  • How neural mechanisms can recognize shapes and musical chords
  • What consensus, if any, the Macy Conferences have arrived at

See also Edit

References Edit

Further reading Edit

  • 1949. Cybernetics: Transactions of the Sixth Conference. New York : Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation.
  • 1950. Cybernetics: Transactions of the Seventh Conference. Edited by Heinz von Foerster, Margaret Mead and Hans Lukas Teuber. New York : Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation.
  • 1952. Cybernetics: Transactions of the Eighth Conference. Edited by Heinz von Foerster, Margaret Mead and Hans Lukas Teuber. New York : Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation.
  • 1953. Cybernetics: Transactions of the Ninth Conference. Edited by Heinz von Foerster, Margaret Mead and Hans Lukas Teuber. New York : Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation.
  • 1955. Cybernetics: Transactions of the Tenth Conference. Edited by Heinz von Foerster, Margaret Mead and Hans Lukas Teuber. New York : Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation.
  • 2003. Cybernetics - Kybernetik. The Macy-Conferences 1946-1953. Edited by Claus Pias. Zürich/Berlin : diaphanes.

External linksEdit

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