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Digital mock up

CYBERSYN was the 1970s Chilean computer network for economic management. It aimed to assist Salvador Allende’s socialist government in real-time decision-making. For its implementation and design, Allende asked for the help of the British engineer Stafford Beer and the german designer, Gui Bonsiepe. Unfortunately, all efforts, maps, drawings, and first mock-ups were destroyed in the 1973 Chilean coup d’état.

What would have happened if Allende’s socialist project had been successful? How would control room would look like? In this uchronia, Allende’s socialist project is triumphant because technology is placed at the center of the country’s economic development and explores an alternative economic model to our own, where the economy is planned and everything is centrally controlled.

Augusto Pinochet (left) and Salvador Allende (right) in 1973

This design exercise seeks to reflect and speculate about a project that combined political, sciences, technology, and design aspects to reflect how CYBERSYNC would be in a possible Chilean techno-socialist reality, focus on the Control Room as it is an interesting representation of the political context of a particular era.

The Narrative (uchronia)

Augusto Pinochet manages to neutralize the imminent coup that threatened the socialist government of Allende. As a result, the current Chile is not the Marxist Chile that could be expected after the victory in ballot boxes of Allende. Rather, it is a Chile similar to the Foucault panopticon, with a Control Room that has been supervising and optimizing Chilean economy development for almost 50 years, as well as suffering the development of its own technology.

Beatriz Sánchez, current president of Chile (fiction)

Salvador Allende (medical doctor), understood that through the use of technology and an interdisciplinary team (evident now, not that obvious in 1971), it will be possible to carry out the socialist utopia in order to automate, control, and coordinate all State Companies, spread over a territory of more than 4,300 km long. An ambitious, complex but necessary effort.

Over the past years, and with all the state investment made in Science, Engineering, Design, and Computational Sciences, the present of Cybersyn – now called “Cybernetica”–, has paid off, and shows a reality that merged a political and a technological utopia working together.

The Theory

The theoretical basis of this project lies in the theory postulated by English designers and academics, Anthony Dunn and Fionna Raby, about what they call Speculative Design. They propose that design can be used as a tool
to create not only things but also ideas, to speculate about possible futures. However, instead of positioning this project from the present to rethink possible futures, Cybernetica is thought from one of the possible past, that modify the present. By doing this, one of the most interesting projects that have been created during the administration of a government in Chile is directly affected and with it, the political, social, and economic history of the country.

Scheme based on Antony Dunn and Fiona Raby Speculative design theory

On the other hand, Cybernetica also takes the social theory of Panopticon developed by Foucault. This refers to the Panopticon as an architectural space that works as an experimental laboratory of power. From here, only some are able to “observe everything” and thereby modify or influence behavior.

Towards a Control Room Media Archaeology

In order to recreate what could be Cybersync (or Cybernetica) these days, it was necessary to investigate the state of the art of different control rooms and their interfaces. First, the contemporary control rooms were analyzed
at the time when Cybersync was created (decade of the 70‘) which responded to its political, economic, and technological temporality (Soviet Union). As well as the contemporary Control Rooms, which also respond to an era dominated by Capitalism and Neoliberalism.

Russian control room
Cooke and Ferguson design for a Control Room
Space Odyssey

As a counterpoint, different control rooms were also analyzed in Science Fiction films such as 2001, Odyssey in Space, Alien, Predator, Star Trek, among others.


Sketches for a possible screen of Cybernetica
Redrawing of studied control rooms

First approach to the design of the current Cybernetica screen. In this sketch, the screen is a biofilm sheet composed of millions and millions of genetically modified bacteria. Each bacterium is in turn a microcomputer that processes millions of data from all companies in Chile and part of the region. So, each bacterium has three main tasks:

A. Create the biofilm that holds the projected image.
B. Show the image through a fluorescence system.
C. Process millions of millions of data (Big Data)

This technological object was created thanks to the strong investment in new technologies, specifically, biotechnology from the Government of President Salvador Allende until nowadays.

First digital approaches
Cybernetica first version 2018
Cybernetica second version 2019

Unlike the first screen designed for this fiction, the second screen is composed of millions of bacteria that process and in turn, show information. It is necessary to mention this detail because the screens designed in a neoliberal society, look for an aesthetic where the image is clear, hopefully, the closest thing to “reality”. However, in this Techno-socialist Chile, efficiency and productivity are sought, that is why the projected image is not the most important thing, but Cybernetica’s ability to process millions of data.


Dunne, A., & Raby, F. (2014). Speculative Everything: Design, fiction, and social dreaming. S.l.: MIT.

FOUCAULT, M. (2020). DISCIPLINE AND PUNISH: The birth of the prison. S.l.: PENGUIN BOOKS.

Medina, E. (2014). Cybernetic revolutionaries: Technology and politics in Allende’s Chile. Cambridge Massachusetts: The MIT Press.