Cybernetics of the Heart

Daisuke Harashima is a research associate at the Future Robotics Organization at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. He specializes in the intersection of humanities and technology within contemporary information societies. His work and teaching are rooted in fundamental informatics and neocybernetics, examining the distinctions between living organisms and machines as systems. This approach aims to reflect on modern technological conditions and foster new values that emphasize respect for life.

Daisuke Harashima’s work delves deeply into the relationship between cybernetics, informatics, and the essence of life, proposing a transformative approach to understanding these domains.

Fundamental Informatics and Neocybernetics #

Harashima’s fundamental informatics emphasizes the role of life as the foundation for information processes. He proposes that information should be understood as “something that brings about significance to a living being.” This perspective shifts the focus from mere data processing to the meaning and value inherent in life itself. Fundamental informatics categorizes information into life information, social information, and mechanical information, with life information being the most fundamental as it is derived from living processes and then abstracted into social and mechanical information (Harashima, p. 225-226).

Neocybernetics builds upon this by emphasizing the observer’s role as a living being embedded within the system. Unlike classical cybernetics, which views systems from an external, mechanistic perspective, neocybernetics acknowledges the autonomy and self-producing nature of living systems. This approach highlights the pluralistic and interconnected worlds constructed by each living being, recognizing the dynamic interplay between autonomy and heteronomy in human experience (Harashima, p. 230-232).

Cybernetics of the Heart #

Harashima’s concept of the cybernetics of the heart is a profound shift from traditional cybernetic approaches. It focuses on the gradual growth and transformation of the individual heart through “life-in-formation.” This process emphasizes living one’s life autonomously and finding personal significance and meaning, rather than being controlled by external, mechanistic laws. The cybernetics of the heart advocates for a long-term, individual approach to personal and social transformation, where technology supports this growth by providing the necessary time and space for individuals to develop their inner lives (Harashima, p. 238-240).

Hierarchical Autonomous Communication Systems (HACS) #

The HACS model describes humans as both autonomous and heteronomous systems. Autonomy arises from self-production and internal processes, while heteronomy is due to the influence of social norms and external constraints. HACS operate hierarchically, with media playing a crucial role in supporting these systems by providing norms and knowledge that regulate their operations. This model underscores the importance of recognizing both the psychic (autonomous) and social (heteronomous) aspects of human experience, highlighting the dynamic interplay between these dimensions (Harashima, p. 235-237).

Life-in-Formation and Informational Observation #

Life-in-formation is central to Harashima’s thought, proposing that life itself constructs its world of significance. This process is deeper than any technological framework and is fundamental to understanding the true nature of information. Harashima argues for an informatic turn towards life information, which respects the singularity and value of life. He contrasts informational observation (observing the self-producing nature of life) with material observation, suggesting that these two modes of observation must be superimposed to fully understand the dynamics of living systems (Harashima, p. 241-243).

References #

  • Harashima, Daisuke. “Life-in-formation: Cybernetics of the Heart.” In Cybernetics for the 21st Century Vol.1: Epistemological Reconstruction, edited by Yuk Hui, Hanart Press, 2024, pp. 225-243.
  • Harashima, Daisuke. “Medialab profile” Time Museum.