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Technical Talk | James Lovelock and Cybernetics at Reading by Prof Richard Mitchell

James Lovelock, an independent scientist, a designer of various scientific instruments, best known for his Gaia Theory and work on the environment, died on his 103rd birthday in July 2022. Gaia Theory states that the Earth is a self-regulatory community, that is, it is a cybernetic system. As such he became visiting Professor at the University of Reading’s Department of Cybernetics from 1967 to 1990.
Systems Man and Cybernetics Society
This talk reflects on Lovelock and his connection with, contributions to and influences on, Cybernetics at Reading.

Specifically, it will introduce Cybernetics, discuss Lovelock’s Gaia Theory and how it fits with Cybernetics and so explain how Peter Fellgett, first Head of Cybernetics at Reading, made him Visiting Professor of Aeronomy. It will then discuss how he helped develop the work here on the ’animal’ side of cybernetics, leading to George Whitfield’s flying Pteranodon (an appearance on TV long before Kevin Warwick). Also covered are Daisyworld, his influence on teaching, and how daisies appear in the Begin Robotics MOOC! A video demonstrating Cybernetics featuring, and probably influenced by, Lovelock will also be shown.

This event is organised by the IET Specialised Section EC3 (Electronics, Communication, Computing and Control).

About the Speaker

Richard Mitchell studied Cybernetics & Control Engineering at the University of Reading, then did his PhD and became a lecturer in the Department of Cybernetics. He is currently Professor of Cybernetics in Computer Science at Reading with interests in Cybernetics, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Gaia Theory and Teaching Enhanced Learning. He is Lead Educator of the FutureLearn MOOC Begin Robotics.

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