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Automatic control or cybernetic? (Philippe de Larminat, 2009)

From: Automatique appliquée, 2nd edition, Philippe de Larminat, © 2009 Hermes Lavoisier

The word ‘control’ hastwo meanings. First one is surveillance (check, supervise, secure) and second one is driving (steering). Nowadays, we control (steer) vehicles, ships, planes or any kind of process: rolling mill, cutting machine, blast furnace, distillation column, heat exchanger, purification plant, tunnel kiln, articulated arm… This book only deals with the second assessment: automatic control as a scientific discipline applied to system governance.

The complexity level of controlled processes varies widely: from a heated room thanks to a simple convector to a nuclear power plant where there is interaction between the reactor, exchangers, supply circuits, cooling tower, steam generator, turbo generator and the entire electrical network.

This sophistication is still nothing compared to financial, ecological or societal systems. These are governed by countless natural and artificial control organs and are described as cybernetics. The typical cybernetic system is the internet and anything close to it: cyber-world, cyber-economy, cybercrimes… The prefix “cyber” also evoke artificial intelligence or futuristic robotics (Cyborg: cybernetic organism). This document deals with automatic control in the strict sense without any cybernetic claim.

(This extract is published with the kind permission of Hermes Lavoisier editions)