In Mashable’s new three-part episode of our series on the digital age’s dark side, Kernel Panic, we explore a startlingly advanced computer network developed in Salvador Allende’s Chile of the 1970s. Called Project Cybersyn, the network oversaw the national economy, part of an effort by Allende, the first democratically elected Marxist leader in Latin America, to modernize the Chilean economy. It was developed in parallel with the American networks that would become the internet, at a moment in time in which President Nixon was trying to undermine the Chilean economy and overthrow Allende.
Cybersyn, designed by a farthinking British theorist named Stafford Beer and run by a cadre of young revolutionary programmers, was an astonishing success. Using little more than old telephone wires and mothballed pre-war machinery, the Chilean program managed to build out a real-time data stream very much like the social media newsfeed of today, watching and monitoring the country’s industry from a retro-futuristic control room in the capital.
For two years, the programmers used Cybersyn to battle strikes and attempted coups until finally, in September of 1973, Allende was overthrown by a military junta led by Augusto Pinochet. The dream of a stable, modernized Chile died with Allende, and so did the potential for a second internet, built in parallel and evolved under a totally different system of information sharing.
Mashable speaks to Fernando Flores who served under Allende as finance minister before spending three years in prison under Pinochet, as well as Raul Espejo, operational director of Project Cybersyn, and the family of Stafford Beer to take you inside the dream and disappointment of Project Cybersyn.