Artificial Intelligence is booming. AI-enabled systems are becoming ubiquitous. New AI solutions are being created to address business, environmental, political and technical challenges. At the same time, there is concern about the impact of AI on public discourse, in consumer settings, in education.

AI is a technology within broader cybernetic systems, encompassing complex interactions of human, technological and ecological factors. In this course participants will learn how to use a cybernetic lens to unpack AI stories and reflect on new ways to talk productively about AI without being beholden to existing technological narratives. We will look at AI-enabled systems as cybernetic systems and explore how interactions within and between the components of the system can lead to unexpected outcomes. Finally, we will consider different potential future scenarios for AI-enabled systems, analysing the possibility and preferability of different possible futures to inform our present-day decisions and actions. These topics will be explained through practical examples and case studies drawn from industry, government and community settings.

This course is offered by the School of Cybernetics through the ANU Centre for Continuing Education, and is open to anyone who has an interest in AI and its application in industry, government and education.

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Program (March 2023)#

08:30: Registration and Coffee#

09:00: Cybernetics in the 21st Century#

A look at the history of Cybernetics, investigating the value of a cybernetic approach to both personal and professional work.

09:30: AI Stories#

An introduction to examining the connection between cybernetics and AI and how cybernetics informs our approach to understanding the AI-enabled systems that characterise the fourth industrial revolution. There is no one single way to look at AI, and diverse stories and perspectives can lead to a more comprehensive view of a system and so better outcomes. Group activity: participants will examine what it means to approach the stories we tell about AI—in our workplaces, in the media and in popular culture—from a cybernetic perspective.

10:30: Morning tea#

11:00: Dynamic Systems#

Explore AI as a system by introducing a simple framework for considering the human, environmental and technological factors that comprise an AI system.

Group activity: using the framework, participants will practice observing a range of factors that are part of, and which influence, the design and purpose of a given AI system.

12:00: Lunch#

13:00: Components and Interactions#

Recognise the dynamics among the agendas, infrastructure, agents, data, and processes that comprise an AI system to practice generating responsible and sustainable AI enabled business futures.

Introduction of the Cybernetic Star tool, which we use to consider the dynamics of a system from multiple perspectives, and to help us narrow our focus so we can identify relationships within the system.

Group activity: participants will analyse a given scenario to practice identifying dynamics using the cybernetic star.

14:00: Futures#

An introduction to futuring - what is futuring, what’s its history, what can/can’t it do for/in your organisation. Group activity: participants will encounter a “future scenario” vignette, where they’ll practice using cybernetic tools to look at what this potential future tells us about how to enact positive change in the present.

15:00: Afternoon Tea#

15:30: Case study: applied cybernetics#

Group activity: participants will analyse a case study set in the future, and practice using the cybernetic analysis tools covered earlier in the day to imagine new potential futures for such systems.

16:30: Wrap-up#

Shareback between groups and closing remarks.

Learning Outcomes#

On completion of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Articulate the link between cybernetics and AI
  • Use cybernetic analysis tools to explore how AI systems can impact wider systems and lead to unexpected outcomes
  • Imagine and articulate multiple visions of our AI-enabled future informed by a cybernetic approach to feedback cycles, people, technology, and the environment


This course will suit anyone who has an interest in AI and its application in industry, government and education. In the course, you will draw on your understanding of AI and its impacts as you employ analytical tools from cybernetics. The techniques you learn in this course will be immediately applicable for anyone who works in AI or in the organisational contexts where it is (or could be) deployed.

Preparation activities#

In the weeks preceding the course, participants will be invited to share some of their thoughts about AI through an anonymous online survey. The course will be tailored to the interests and needs of participants based on the responses to the survey.


The fee for these workshops will be $940 per person.

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