chapter
Intellectual structures
Pages 7

At the time when Lévi-Strauss became acquainted with structural linguistics it had also become caught up in a much more general theory of communication which went under the name of †cybernetics. Cybernetics was a science which underlay the development of early computers. At that time, these computers were being incorporated into such military technology as guided missiles, and could perform tasks which no machine and only living beings had previously been capable of; for example, adjusting the trajectory of a missile in flight to compensate for the avoiding action of its target. In being able to perform such reflexive tasks, computers could therefore be said, in some ways, ‘to think’. If that were so, it was not an unreasonable supposition that at the same time as they had made computers, cyberneticians had discovered how the nervous system of animals in general, and of humans in particular, worked. Most cyberneticians did indeed make this supposition.