• Offered by Institute of Autonomy, Agency and Assurance
  • ANU College ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject CECS Experimental, Interdisciplinary
  • Areas of interest Anthropology, Law, Philosophy, Computer Science, Artifical Intelligence
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person

This course is an introduction to cybernetics and cyber-physical systems: the history, theoretical frameworks and key concepts. “Cybernetics” as a field was invented in 1948, when American mathematician and philosopher, Norbert Wiener coined the term in his book of the same name. He was particularly interested in understanding systems level interactions and feedback loops that encompassed biological, technical and human systems. Wiener’s early explorations of the topic brought together anthropologists, psychologists, biologists, philosophers, and early proponents of computing. This work formed the intellectual bedrock for much of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) agenda that would follow. Whilst the work was supplanted in the United States by AI and Computer Science, it continued to evolve and expand in Europe and Latin America. Today, cyber-physical systems, or CPS, are often viewed as the application of cybernetics, and the course will explore CPS in this context.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Understand the history of cybernetics and cyber-physical systems, including who wrote it, when and why;
  2. Identify the ways in which cybernetics helps us understand the world around us today, and where we can intervene to create alternative imaginaries and outcomes for society;
  3. Evaluate and transmit knowledge, skills and ideas to specialist and non-specialist audiences;
  4. Collaborate successfully and confer effectively with peers from a variety of backgrounds to share prior practical skills, learn from others, and work collaboratively;
  5. Demonstrate expert, specialised and in-depth understanding of the history that machines and humans have already, and how machines are used to perpetuate existing power structures and/or create new ones; and
  6. Create new cybernetics-shaped approaches to inform professional practice and decisions about emerging technological systems.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Project based assessment (75) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]
  2. Portfolio assessment (25) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]

In response to COVID-19: Please note that Semester 2 Class Summary information (available under the classes tab) is as up to date as possible. Changes to Class Summaries not captured by this publication will be available to enrolled students via Wattle. 

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


We expect participants to dedicate around 10 hours per week to this course, for twelve weeks. This will comprise:

  • three hours per week classwork; and
  • seven hours per week dedicated to self-study, reading, and group projects.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Prescribed Texts


Preliminary Reading

Resource lists for this course will include a wide variety of materials, including books, articles, films, art and podcasts. Participants are not expected to read every source themselves. Generally, participants will have time to select and discuss a particular approach or framework that they will engage with.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $432
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $576
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

There are no current offerings for this course.

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