Norbert Wiener
1894-1964

Wiener on Information and Entropy

"As entropy increases, the universe, and all closed systems in the universe, tend naturally to deteriorate and lose their distinctiveness, to move from the least to the most probable state, from a state of organization and differentiation in which distinctions and forms exist, to a state of chaos and sameness. In Gibbs' universe order is least probable, chaos most probable. But while the universe as a whole, tends to run down, there are local enclaves of whose direction seems opposed to that of the universe at large and in which there is a limited and temporary tendency for organization to increase. Life finds its home in these enclaves. It is with this point of view at its core that the new science of Cybernetics began its development".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"We have modified our environment so radically that we must now modify ourselves in order to exist in this new environment".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"We live only by the grace of invention; not merely by such invention as has already been made, but by our hope of new and as yet nonexisting inventions for the future".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"The more we get out of the world, the less we leave, and in the long run we shall have to pay our debts at a time that may be very inconvenient for our own survival".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"Beauty, like order, occurs in many places in the world, but only as a local and temporary fight against the Niagara of increasing entropy".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"But we are not yet spectators at the last stages of the world's death. In fact these last stages can have no spectators".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"The Greeks regarded the act of discovering fire with very split emotions".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"Just as entropy is a measure of disorganization, the information carried by a set of messages is a measure of organization. In fact, it is possible to interpret the information carried by a message as essentially the negative of its entropy, and the negative logarithm of its probability. That is, the more probable the message, the less information it gives. Cliches, for example, are less illuminating than great poems".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"As we have said, nature's statistical tendency to disorder, the tendency for entropy to increase in isolated systems, is expressed in the second law of thermodynamics. We as human beings, are not isolated systems".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"In control and communication we are always fighting nature's tendency to degrade the organized and to destroy the meaningful; the tendency,... for entropy to increase".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"In physics, the idea of progress opposes that of entropy, although there is no absolute contradiction between the two".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"Organism is opposed to chaos, to disintegration, to death, as message is to noise".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"It is my thesis that the physical functioning of the living individual and the operation of some of the newer communication machines are precisely parallel in their analogous attempts to control entropy through feedback".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"May we have the courage to face the eventual doom of our civilization as we have the courage to face the certainty of our personal doom".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"Life is an island here and now in a dying world. The process by which we living beings resist the general stream of corruption and decay is known as homeostasis. We can continue to live in the very special environment which we carry forward with us until we begin to decay more quickly than we reconstitute ourselves. Then we die".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"It is my thesis that the physical functioning of the living individual and the operation of some of the newer communication machines are precisely parallel in their analogous attempts to control entropy through feedback. Both of them have sensory receptors as one stage in their cycle of operation: that is, in both of them there exists a special apparatus for collecting information from the outer world at low energy levels, and for making it available in the operation of the individual or of the machine. In both cases these external messages are not taken neat, but through the internal transforming powers of the apparatus, whether it be alive or dead. The information is then turned into a new form available for the further stages of performance. In both the animal and the machine this performance is made to be effective on the outer world. In both of them, their performed action on the outer world, and not merely their intended action, is reported back to the central regulatory apparatus. This complex of behavior is ignored by the average man, and in particular does not play the role that it should in our habitual analysis of society; for just as individual physical responses may be seen from this point of view, so may the organic responses of society itself. I do not mean that the sociologist is unaware of the existence and complex nature of communications in society, but until recently he has tended to overlook the extent to which they are the cement which binds its fabric together".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)

"In a very real sense we are shipwrecked passengers on a doomed planet. Yet even in a shipwreck, human decencies and human values do not necessarily vanish, and we must make the most of them. We shall go down, but let it be in a manner to which we may look forward as worthy of our dignity".
(The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society)


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