21st Century Wiener
July 11, 2014 7:11 AM Subscribe
Norbert Wiener: The Eccentric Genius Whose Time May Have Finally Come (Again) - "The most direct reason for Wiener's fall to relative obscurity was the breakthrough of a young mathematician and engineer named Claude Shannon."
In his 1950 book, "The Human Use of Human Beings," [PDF] Wiener envisioned a utopia in which automation would relieve humanity of manual labor to allow more creative pursuits. Sixty years later, we have much automation, but income inequality rather than utopia. Wiener died in Stockholm, Sweden, at age 69.also btw...
The crater, Wiener, on the far side of the Moon is named after him. I've always believed in "Wiener's Law of Libraries," "There are no answers, only cross references". The IEEE is sponsoring a conference, Norbert Wiener in the 21st Century, commemorating Norbert Wiener.
- In 1949, He Imagined an Age of Robots: " 'The Machine Age' (pdf) an essay written for The New York Times by Norbert Wiener, a visionary mathematician, languished for six decades in the M.I.T. archives, and now excerpts are being published."
- Theoreticians as Professional Outsiders: The Modeling Strategies of John von Neumann and Norbert Wiener (pdf)
- A Billionaire Mathematician's Life of Ferocious Curiosity: "Dr. Simons received his doctorate at 23; advanced code breaking for the National Security Agency at 26; led a university math department at 30; won geometry's top prize at 37; founded Renaissance Technologies, one of the world's most successful hedge funds, at 44; and began setting up charitable foundations at 56."
- Physics and the Horizons of Truth: "mathematics without something like the 'axiom of infinity' might be well-defined..." [Horizons of Truth: Kurt Gödel and the Foundations of Mathematics (pdf)]
- Sentences you never thought you'd hear in Congress: "Madame Speaker, I would like to talk about twin prime numbers..."
Both von Neumann and Wiener were outsiders to biology. Both were inspired by biology and both proposed models and generalizations that proved inspirational for biologists. Around the same time in the 1940s von Neumann developed the notion of self reproducing automata and Wiener suggested an explication of teleology using the notion of negative feedback. These efforts were similar in spirit. Both von Neumann and Wiener used mathematical ideas to attack foundational issues in biology, and the concepts they articulated had lasting effect. But there were significant differences as well. Von Neumann presented a how-possibly model, which sparked interest by mathematicians and computer scientists, while Wiener collaborated more directly with biologists, and his proposal influenced the philosophy of biology. The two cases illustrate different strategies by which mathematicians, the "professional outsiders" of science, can choose to guide their engagement with biological questions and with the biological community, and illustrate different kinds of generalizations that mathematization can contribute to biology. The different strategies employed by von Neumann and Wiener and the types of models they constructed may have affected the fate of von Neumann's and Wiener's ideas – as well as the reputation, in biology, of von Neumann and Wiener themselves.
This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments