While reading Annalee Newitz’ intriguing blog post on io9 about the history of the word cyber, I came across the name Norbert Wiener (not Weiner — get it straight, you Englishers) who had introduced the term Cybernetics as “the study of control and communication in machines and living beings”. His other works include the book God and Golem, Inc.: A Comment on Certain Points Where Cybernetics Impinges on Religion, and that title immediately caught my eye. Studies of the interaction between science, technology, and religion always interest me a lot, as do Golems and Jewish folklore, so Wiener had sold it to me easily.
Out of the 100 books I read last year, I wanted to highlight a few that I found particularly rewarding.
Following is a brief essay on some principles of evolution that could be useful in analysing the spread of ideas, concepts, and ideological complexes in human culture. While there will be many practical differences between evolution in biological entities and cultural ones, some general principles of evolution may perhaps apply to both.
Over the past few years, I’ve become more and more convinced that the concept of evolution is not only a powerful explanation of changes and patterns in the biological world, but also, by extension, of changes and patterns in human culture, or the world of ideas. If the survival of (species of) organisms ultimately depends on their ability to adapt to ever-changing environments, then the same might very well be true of ideas and concepts, and I believe it is a fruitful line of study to pursue this idea.