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The Wired Cold War

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This week’s episode is the sixth of seven events Distant Friends and Intimate Enemies: The US and Russia, the Fall 2020 Speakers Series at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies.

The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was not just a battle between ideologies. It was also a technological race. The state that could produce the most advanced tech affirmed the superiority of its respective system. By the 1960s, cybernetics, and soon, the creation of national information network, became a key theater in the science race. As we know, the United States was successful. The American military developed the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) which became the technological foundation for today’s Internet. But cybernetics had broader application and influenced economics, psychology, biology, and other human sciences. What vision did Soviet and American scientists have for cybernetics? And what role did cybernetics play in the Cold War contest?

Guests:

Ekaterina Babintseva is a Hixon-Riggs Early Career fellow in Science and Technologies Studies at Harvey Mudd College. Her book project “Cyberdreams of the Information Age: Learning with Machines in the Cold War United States and Soviet Union” examines how American and Soviet engineers, computer scientists, psychologists, and educators worked to develop computational methods to educate American and Soviet citizens during the Cold War.

Slava Gerovitch is a Lecturer in the History of Mathematics at MIT. He’s the author of several books including From Newspeak to Cyberspeak: A History of Soviet Cybernetics, Voices of the Soviet Space Program: Cosmonauts, Soldiers, and Engineers Who Took the USSR into Space and Soviet Space Mythologies: Public Images, Private Memories, and the Making of a Cultural Identity.

Music:

Rhesus Factor feat. Leæther Strip, “Stomp the Cybers,” Mann Der Arbeit, 2015,