Norbert Wiener
1894-1964

Wiener on Information and Personality

"The nervous system and the automatic machine are fundamentally alike in that they are devices which make decisions on the basis of decisions they have made in the past".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"The simplest mechanical devises will make decisions between two alternatives, such as the closing or opening of a switch. In the nervous system, the individual nerve fiber also decides between carrying an impulse and or not".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"This view of the nervous system corresponds to the theory of those machines that consist in a sequence of switching devices in which the opening of a later switch depends on the action of precise combinations of earlier switches leading into it, which open at the same time. This all-or-none machine is called a digital machine. It has great advantages for the most varied problems of communication and control. In particular, the sharpness of the decision between 'yes' and 'no' permits it to accumulate information in such a way as to discriminate very small differences in very large numbers".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"... there is no reason why they may not resemble human beings in representing pockets of decreasing entropy in a framework in which the large entropy tends to increase".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"In a certain sense, all communication systems terminate in machines, but the ordinary language systems terminate in the special sort of machine known as the human being".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"It is easy to make a simple machine which will run toward the light or run away from it, and if such machines also contain lights of their own, a number of them together will show complicated forms of social behavior..."
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"This machine has two principal modes of action, in one of which it is positively photo-tropic and searches for light, and in the other of which it is negatively photo-tropic and runs away from the light".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"This feedback tends to accomplish the purpose of either positive or negative photo-tropism. It is the analogue of a voluntary feedback, for in man we consider that a voluntary action is essentially a choice between tropisms".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"Moreover, with his love for the gadget as a collection of wheels that rotate and make noise, he has emphasized the extended physical transportation of man, rather than the transportation of language and ideas. He does not seem to realize that where man's word goes, and where his power of perception goes, to that point his control and in a sense his physical existence is extended. To see and give commands to the whole world is almost the same as being everywhere".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"To see the greater importance of the transportation of information as compared with mere physical transportation, let us suppose that we have an architect in Europe supervising the construction of a building in the United States... Even at the present, there is no reason why the working copies of these plans and specifications must be transmitted to the construction site on the same paper on which they have been drawn up in the architect's drafting-room... Ultrafax gives a means by which a facsimile of all the documents concerned may be transmitted in a fraction of a second, and the received copies are quite as good working plans as the originals... In short, the bodily transmission of the architect and his documents may be replaced very effectively by the message-transmission of communications which do not entail the moving of a particle of matter from one end of the line to the other".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"One thing at any rate is clear. The physical identity of an individual does not consist in the matter of which it is made... The biological individuality of an organism seems to lie in a certain continuity of process, and in the memory by the organism of the effects of its past development... In terms of the computing machine, the individuality of a mind lies in the retention of its earlier tapings and memories, and in its continued development along lines already laid out".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"To recapitulate: the individuality of the body is that of a flame rather than that of a stone, of a form rather than as a bit of substance. This form can be transmitted or modified and duplicated, although at the present we know only how to duplicate it over a short distance".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"To hold an organism stable while a part of it is being slowly destroyed, with the intention of re-creating it out of other material elsewhere, involves a lowering of its degree of activity, which in most cases would destroy the life in the tissue".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"The fact that we cannot telegraph the pattern of a man from one place to another seems to be due to technical difficulties, and in particular, to the difficulty of keeping an organism in being during such a radical reconstruction".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"However, even now the transportation of messages serves to forward an extension of man's senses and his capabilities of action from one end of the world to another. We have already suggested in this chapter that the distinction between material transportation and message transportation is not in any theoretical sense permanent and unabridgeable. This takes us very deeply into the question of human individuality. The problem of the nature of human individuality and of the barrier which separates one person from another is as old as human history".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"The difficulties lie in the fact that for these people (deaf-mutes) the act of conversation has been broken into two entirely separate parts".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"The deprivation of hearing is overwhelmingly the deprivation of one thing- free participation in human conversation".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"The simplest type of breakdown exhibits itself as an oscillation in a goal-seeking process which appears only when that process is actively invoked".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"To sum up, the human interest in language seems to be an innate interest in coding and decoding, and this seems to be as nearly specifically human as any interest can be. Speech is the greatest interest and most distinctive achievement of man".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"Man has held the notion that language is a mystery since very early times..."
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, most chimpanzees, in fact all that have as yet been observed, persist in being good chimpanzees, and do not become quasi-human morons".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"...in man, unlike the apes, the impulse to use some sort of language is overwhelming..."
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"The problem of the work of art as a commodity raises a large number of questions important in the theory of information..."
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"Variety and possibility are inherent in the human sensorium - and are indeed the key to man's most noble flights - because variety and possibility belong to the very structure of the human organism".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"I have spoken of machines, but not only of machines having brains of brass and thews of iron. When human atoms are knit into an organization in which they are used, not in their full right as responsible human beings, but as cogs and levers and rods, it matters little that their raw material is flesh and blood".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"Thus the machine may generate the message, and the message may generate another machine".
(God and Golem, Inc.: A Comment on Certain Points where Cybernetics Impinges on Religion)

"We are but whirlpools in a river of ever-flowing water. We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves. A pattern is a message, and may be transmitted as a message".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)


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