Cybernetics (God and Golem)

  Just ripped through Norbert Wiener’s God & Golem, Inc.: A comment on Certain Points where Cybernetics Impinges on Religion. Wiener was one of the first theorists of information technology science and theory. God & Golem is a 1964, MIT Press imprint. I didn’t write in the margins and all over it, its such a lovely, old, little black book.

Wiener sought in God & Golem to subvert the taboo then prevalent in the sciences that machines and life-systems are antithetical. He was interested in machines that could learn and reproduce, and self-create (just like God, and just like the human creator-person who creates machines that can self-create and create other machines, all in the image of God)

Against what he calls “gadget worshippers,” he wanted to preserve the human element in the human-machine assemblage. For him, as for Atlan, the human brain has a unique capacity to deal with vagueness and formlessness, whereas he thought that machines could not. (This reminds me of Lanier’s criticism of the brittleness of computer-machinic programs, about which I posted below).

For Wiener, the ideal is to create mixed systems, with both human and mechanical elements. He wrote about super-enhanced prosthetics with the capacity to register the sense of touch, systems that learn, and in which human elements are added.

A neat little book. It was sitting on my shelf for years and years, and I only had occaison now to read it. It would seem that my library has developed prior to my interests. That’s the random thing about books, as opposed to algorithms.


About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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1 Response to Cybernetics (God and Golem)

  1. …which reminds me of a story that Gregory Bateson used to tell
    “A man wanted to know about mind, not in nature, but in his private large computer. He asked it (no doubt in his best Fortran), “Do you compute that you will ever think like a human being?” The machine then set to work to analyze its own computational habits. Finally, the machine printed its answer on a piece of paper, as such machines do. The man ran to get the answer and found, neatly typed, the words:


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