Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Book Report: The Human Use of Human Beings

Norbert Weiner’s book The Human Use of Human Beings:  Cybernetics and Society ranges over a wide field.  The original publication date is 1950, with a second edition in 1954, which is relevant because a lot of science has occurred since that time.  Nonetheless, his exploration between the relationship between mind and computer contains much that is thought-provoking and a great deal that seems downright prescient.

As we grow and learn (yes, there is the tenuous connection to fitness!), it is useful to remember what he says about who we are:

“It is the pattern maintained by this homeostasis, which is the touchstone of our personal identity.  Our tissues change as we live:  the food we eat and the air we breathe become flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, and the momentary elements of our flesh and bone pass out of our body every day with our excreta.  We are but whirlpools in a river of ever-flowing water.  We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves.” (p. 96)

He has many other interesting reflections on, among other things, fascism, game theory, teleportation, and prosthetics.  I would enjoy a conversation with this person and would be fascinated to hear what he thinks of where we are now.

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