On Norbert Wiener’s ‘God & Golem, Inc.’

wiener_godandgolem

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. […Read more…]

Science Stories: The Mythology of Evolution

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Most people will be at least passingly familiar with the ‘war’ between ‘sci­ence’ and ‘reli­gion’ that has been a central theme in the his­tory of the West in the past few cen­turies. My quotes are inten­tional because each of these con­cepts is far more com­plic­ated than common usage would sug­gest. The problem is: most, if […Read more…]

2011 Inspirational Reading

Out of the 100 books I read last year, I wanted to high­light a few that I found par­tic­u­larly rewarding. […Read more…]

Some possible principles of cultural evolution

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. […Read more…]

Two recent books on biological, cultural, and spiritual evolution

vermeij

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. […Read more…]

Networks: Introduction

The Seven Bridges of Königsberg

A sig­ni­ficant part of my cur­rent PhD research deals with net­works (in my case of human com­mu­nic­a­tion), and how these can help us under­stand the world around us. A net­work in the modern sci­entific use of the word is basic­ally an abstract rep­res­ent­a­tion of rela­tion­ships between con­cepts. It often helps to make a graphic rep­res­ent­a­tion […Read more…]