Wiener’s Cybernetics

Norbert Wiener
Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine
Area: Digital Media

•    The mathematician need not have the skill to conduct a physiological experiment, but he must have the skill to understand, criticize, and suggest one
•    Example: Picking up a pencil
o    Unless we’re anatomists, we don’t know the muscles, etc. used in performing the act
o    Doesn’t prevent us from doing so, it’s simply an unconscious movement
•    Cybernetics: influence of mathematical logic
o    Liebniz: universal symbolism and a calculus of reasoning
o    Like his predecessor Pascal, Liebniz was interested in the computing machines of the mental
•    Gestalt: perceptual formation of universals
Chapter One: Newtonian and Bergsonian Time
•    Using Newtonian laws: all we can predict at any future time is a probability distribution of the constants of the system, and even this predictability fades out with the increase of time
o    Time is perfectly reversible: asymmetrical past and future
•    Within any world with which we can communicate, the direction of time is uniform
•    The individual is an arrow pointed through time in one way and the race is equally directed from the past into the future
•    Bergson emphasizes reversible time of physics and irreversible time of evolution and biology
•    Vitalism has won to the extent that even mechanisms correspond to the time-structure of vitalism
43: “To sum up: the many automata of the present age are coupled to the outside world both for the reception of impressions and for the performance of actions.  They contain sense organs, effectors, and information from the one to the other.  They lend themselves very well to description in physiological terms.”
Chapter Eight: Information, Language, and Society
•    We are too small to influence the stars in their courses, and too large to care about anything but the mass effects of molecules, atoms, and electrons
Chapter Nine: On Learning and Self-Producing Machines
•    Two powers characteristic of living systems:
o    Power to learn: capable of being transformed
o    Power to reproduce themselves: multiply one’s likeness
•    Can man-made machines learn and reproduce themselves?


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October 2008
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