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PHILOSOPHICAL
LITERARY
JOURNAL
ISSN 0869-5377
Author: Sirotkina Irina

Sirotkina Irina

Leading Research Fellow, isiro1@yandex.ru.
S. I. Vavilov Institute for the History of Science and Technology, Russian Academy of
Sciences (IHST RAS), 14 Baltiyskaya St., Moscow 125315, Russia.

Publications

From Top-Down Control to Self-Organisation: The “Thaw” and Motor Action Theory / Logos. 2020. № 2 (135). P. 129-156
annotation:  The period from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s in the Soviet Union was known as the “Thaw,” a political era that fostered hopes of restoring the rule of law and democracy to the country. In that period cybernetics came to symbolize both scientific progress and social change. The Soviet intelligentsia had survived the hardship of Stalinist repression and now regarded the new discipline, which brought together the natural sciences and the human sciences, as a pathway to building a freer and more equal society. After decades of domination by Pavlovian doctrine, a paradigm shift was under way in physiology and psychology. Cybernetics reinforced the new paradigm, which put forward ideas of purposive behavior and self-organization in living and non-living systems. The conditioned reflex and a simplistic one-to-one view of connections in the nervous system gave way to more sophisticated and complex models, which could be formalized mathematically. Previous models of control in living organisms were mostly hierarchical and included top-down control of peripheral movement by the motor centers. The new models supplemented this picture with feedback commands from the periphery to the center. By the time cybernetics had made its appearance in the Soviet Union, new models of control had already been formulated in physiology by Nikolay Bernstein (1896– 1966). He termed the feedback from afferent signals “sensorial corrections,” meaning that they play an important part in adapting central control to the changing situation at the periphery of movement. The new paradigm emphasized horizontal connections over vertical ones, and new models took hold based on less “totalitarian” and more “democratic” principles, such as the idea of automatic or autonomous functioning of intermediate centers, the mathematical concept of well-organized functions, the theory of “the collective behavior of automata,” etc. This line of research was carried out in the USSR as well as abroad by Bernstein’s students and followers who formed the Moscow School of Motor Control. The author argues that this preference for less hierarchical models was one expression of the Thaw’s trend toward liberalization of life within the USSR and greater involvement in international politics.
Keywords:  motor action theory; Nikolay Bernstein; top-down control; self-organization; cybernetics; Moscow Motor School.

Sirotkina Irina

Leading Research Fellow, isiro1@yandex.ru.
S. I. Vavilov Institute for the History of Science and Technology, Russian Academy of
Sciences (IHST RAS), 14 Baltiyskaya St., Moscow 125315, Russia.

Publications

From Top-Down Control to Self-Organisation: The “Thaw” and Motor Action Theory / Logos. 2020. № 2 (135). P. 129-156
annotation:  The period from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s in the Soviet Union was known as the “Thaw,” a political era that fostered hopes of restoring the rule of law and democracy to the country. In that period cybernetics came to symbolize both scientific progress and social change. The Soviet intelligentsia had survived the hardship of Stalinist repression and now regarded the new discipline, which brought together the natural sciences and the human sciences, as a pathway to building a freer and more equal society. After decades of domination by Pavlovian doctrine, a paradigm shift was under way in physiology and psychology. Cybernetics reinforced the new paradigm, which put forward ideas of purposive behavior and self-organization in living and non-living systems. The conditioned reflex and a simplistic one-to-one view of connections in the nervous system gave way to more sophisticated and complex models, which could be formalized mathematically. Previous models of control in living organisms were mostly hierarchical and included top-down control of peripheral movement by the motor centers. The new models supplemented this picture with feedback commands from the periphery to the center. By the time cybernetics had made its appearance in the Soviet Union, new models of control had already been formulated in physiology by Nikolay Bernstein (1896– 1966). He termed the feedback from afferent signals “sensorial corrections,” meaning that they play an important part in adapting central control to the changing situation at the periphery of movement. The new paradigm emphasized horizontal connections over vertical ones, and new models took hold based on less “totalitarian” and more “democratic” principles, such as the idea of automatic or autonomous functioning of intermediate centers, the mathematical concept of well-organized functions, the theory of “the collective behavior of automata,” etc. This line of research was carried out in the USSR as well as abroad by Bernstein’s students and followers who formed the Moscow School of Motor Control. The author argues that this preference for less hierarchical models was one expression of the Thaw’s trend toward liberalization of life within the USSR and greater involvement in international politics.
Keywords:  motor action theory; Nikolay Bernstein; top-down control; self-organization; cybernetics; Moscow Motor School.

Sirotkina Irina

Leading Research Fellow, isiro1@yandex.ru.
S. I. Vavilov Institute for the History of Science and Technology, Russian Academy of
Sciences (IHST RAS), 14 Baltiyskaya St., Moscow 125315, Russia.

Publications

From Top-Down Control to Self-Organisation: The “Thaw” and Motor Action Theory / Logos. 2020. № 2 (135). P. 129-156
annotation:  The period from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s in the Soviet Union was known as the “Thaw,” a political era that fostered hopes of restoring the rule of law and democracy to the country. In that period cybernetics came to symbolize both scientific progress and social change. The Soviet intelligentsia had survived the hardship of Stalinist repression and now regarded the new discipline, which brought together the natural sciences and the human sciences, as a pathway to building a freer and more equal society. After decades of domination by Pavlovian doctrine, a paradigm shift was under way in physiology and psychology. Cybernetics reinforced the new paradigm, which put forward ideas of purposive behavior and self-organization in living and non-living systems. The conditioned reflex and a simplistic one-to-one view of connections in the nervous system gave way to more sophisticated and complex models, which could be formalized mathematically. Previous models of control in living organisms were mostly hierarchical and included top-down control of peripheral movement by the motor centers. The new models supplemented this picture with feedback commands from the periphery to the center. By the time cybernetics had made its appearance in the Soviet Union, new models of control had already been formulated in physiology by Nikolay Bernstein (1896– 1966). He termed the feedback from afferent signals “sensorial corrections,” meaning that they play an important part in adapting central control to the changing situation at the periphery of movement. The new paradigm emphasized horizontal connections over vertical ones, and new models took hold based on less “totalitarian” and more “democratic” principles, such as the idea of automatic or autonomous functioning of intermediate centers, the mathematical concept of well-organized functions, the theory of “the collective behavior of automata,” etc. This line of research was carried out in the USSR as well as abroad by Bernstein’s students and followers who formed the Moscow School of Motor Control. The author argues that this preference for less hierarchical models was one expression of the Thaw’s trend toward liberalization of life within the USSR and greater involvement in international politics.
Keywords:  motor action theory; Nikolay Bernstein; top-down control; self-organization; cybernetics; Moscow Motor School.

Sirotkina Irina

Leading Research Fellow, isiro1@yandex.ru.
S. I. Vavilov Institute for the History of Science and Technology, Russian Academy of
Sciences (IHST RAS), 14 Baltiyskaya St., Moscow 125315, Russia.

Publications

From Top-Down Control to Self-Organisation: The “Thaw” and Motor Action Theory / Logos. 2020. № 2 (135). P. 129-156
annotation:  The period from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s in the Soviet Union was known as the “Thaw,” a political era that fostered hopes of restoring the rule of law and democracy to the country. In that period cybernetics came to symbolize both scientific progress and social change. The Soviet intelligentsia had survived the hardship of Stalinist repression and now regarded the new discipline, which brought together the natural sciences and the human sciences, as a pathway to building a freer and more equal society. After decades of domination by Pavlovian doctrine, a paradigm shift was under way in physiology and psychology. Cybernetics reinforced the new paradigm, which put forward ideas of purposive behavior and self-organization in living and non-living systems. The conditioned reflex and a simplistic one-to-one view of connections in the nervous system gave way to more sophisticated and complex models, which could be formalized mathematically. Previous models of control in living organisms were mostly hierarchical and included top-down control of peripheral movement by the motor centers. The new models supplemented this picture with feedback commands from the periphery to the center. By the time cybernetics had made its appearance in the Soviet Union, new models of control had already been formulated in physiology by Nikolay Bernstein (1896– 1966). He termed the feedback from afferent signals “sensorial corrections,” meaning that they play an important part in adapting central control to the changing situation at the periphery of movement. The new paradigm emphasized horizontal connections over vertical ones, and new models took hold based on less “totalitarian” and more “democratic” principles, such as the idea of automatic or autonomous functioning of intermediate centers, the mathematical concept of well-organized functions, the theory of “the collective behavior of automata,” etc. This line of research was carried out in the USSR as well as abroad by Bernstein’s students and followers who formed the Moscow School of Motor Control. The author argues that this preference for less hierarchical models was one expression of the Thaw’s trend toward liberalization of life within the USSR and greater involvement in international politics.
Keywords:  motor action theory; Nikolay Bernstein; top-down control; self-organization; cybernetics; Moscow Motor School.

Sirotkina Irina

Leading Research Fellow, isiro1@yandex.ru.
S. I. Vavilov Institute for the History of Science and Technology, Russian Academy of
Sciences (IHST RAS), 14 Baltiyskaya St., Moscow 125315, Russia.

Publications

From Top-Down Control to Self-Organisation: The “Thaw” and Motor Action Theory / Logos. 2020. № 2 (135). P. 129-156
annotation:  The period from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s in the Soviet Union was known as the “Thaw,” a political era that fostered hopes of restoring the rule of law and democracy to the country. In that period cybernetics came to symbolize both scientific progress and social change. The Soviet intelligentsia had survived the hardship of Stalinist repression and now regarded the new discipline, which brought together the natural sciences and the human sciences, as a pathway to building a freer and more equal society. After decades of domination by Pavlovian doctrine, a paradigm shift was under way in physiology and psychology. Cybernetics reinforced the new paradigm, which put forward ideas of purposive behavior and self-organization in living and non-living systems. The conditioned reflex and a simplistic one-to-one view of connections in the nervous system gave way to more sophisticated and complex models, which could be formalized mathematically. Previous models of control in living organisms were mostly hierarchical and included top-down control of peripheral movement by the motor centers. The new models supplemented this picture with feedback commands from the periphery to the center. By the time cybernetics had made its appearance in the Soviet Union, new models of control had already been formulated in physiology by Nikolay Bernstein (1896– 1966). He termed the feedback from afferent signals “sensorial corrections,” meaning that they play an important part in adapting central control to the changing situation at the periphery of movement. The new paradigm emphasized horizontal connections over vertical ones, and new models took hold based on less “totalitarian” and more “democratic” principles, such as the idea of automatic or autonomous functioning of intermediate centers, the mathematical concept of well-organized functions, the theory of “the collective behavior of automata,” etc. This line of research was carried out in the USSR as well as abroad by Bernstein’s students and followers who formed the Moscow School of Motor Control. The author argues that this preference for less hierarchical models was one expression of the Thaw’s trend toward liberalization of life within the USSR and greater involvement in international politics.
Keywords:  motor action theory; Nikolay Bernstein; top-down control; self-organization; cybernetics; Moscow Motor School.
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