Dark Hero of the Information Age
In Search of Norbert Wiener, the Father of Cybernetics
In the middle of the last century, Norbert Wiener-ex-child prodigy and brilliant MIT mathematician -founded the science of cybernetics, igniting the information-age explosion of computers, automation, and global telecommunications. Wiener was the first to articulate the modern notion of "feedback," and his ideas informed the work of computer pioneer John von Neumann, information theorist Claude Shannon, and anthropologists Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead. His best-selling book, Cybernetics , catapulted him into the public spotlight, as did his chilling visions of the future and his ardent social activism. So what happened? Why is his work virtually unknown today? And what, in fact, is Wiener's legacy? In this remarkable book, award-winning journalists Conway and Siegelman set out to rescue Wiener's genius from obscurity and to explore the many ways in which his groundbreaking ideas continue to shape our lives. Based on a wealth of primary sources (including some newly declassified WW II and Cold War-era documents) and exclusive interviews with Wiener's family and closest colleagues, the book reveals an extraordinarily complex figure, whose high-pressure childhood, manic depression, and troubled relationships had a profound effect on his scientific work. No one interested in the intersection of technology and culture will want to miss this epic story of one of the twentieth century's most brilliant and colorful figures.
New York : Basic Books, c2005
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