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Published: June 24, 2018 (5 years 9 months ago.)

The book in...
One sentence:
A comparison of cybernetics, with its portended development of the learning machine, analogous to the golem, and religion in regards to the creations ability in relation to the creator.

Five sentences:
The main crux here is creator versus created; God playing a game with the Devil; man playing checkers with a computer. Where is the line between alive and not alive? If you go low enough, the molecules aren't alive. While these types of questions are philosophically interesting, the more pragmatic are already (circa 1960) using learning machines, often without understanding the potentially devastating consequences; the machines act completely literal, unapologetically producing monkey paw like results, with no wiggle room for nuances in input that are second nature to humans. These people, gadget-worshipers, see the learning machine as a slave, perfectly obedient, without recognizing the potential dangers that, in hindsight, we can see all around us today.

designates my notes. / designates important.


This book marks what I’ll call the beginning of ‘real’ learning machines. Up until this point they, learning machines, were more theoretical, to be found only in the laboratory. Now, or rather then, in 1962, the first vestiges of these experiments and developments is beginning to been seen by the mainstream. At least the mainstream scientist.

At firs a blurry comparison between the living and the machine is made. Living things are alive only down so far; at the molecular level they are inert. Compare this with a machine of brass and steel that operates on inputs and produces, intelligent, outputs. Where is the line between them?

This is remnant, as alluded to in the title, of the line between man and god, creator and created. This frontier is such that it is in constant flux, then as it is now, like the croquet game in Alice in Wonderland.

I find it more than interesting that Weiner mentions Alice in Wonderland twice in this book and several times in some of his other works. Lewis Caroll was connected to Lord Salisbury, of Rhodes/Milner group infamy, and was fond of taking pictures of naked adolescent girls. What we would today call a pedophile.

Back to the machines. It should not be taken for granted that these learning machines will understand our intentions. Weiner here compares a modern machine to the monkey paw or the djinn of the lamp. Immense, but literal power. As was the case of the monkey paw, ask for $200 and get it, along with a dead son. When machine derived decisions are utilized when there are great risks, nuclear war for example, the user must be very specific as to the intended outcome. A request for victory without stipulations of survival may produce dire, if not grim, results.

As of the writing, learning machines could play a better than decent game of checkers and it was predicted that in 10-25 years computers would dominate at chess to the point of making the game uninteresting for humans. While computers do now dominate chess, although it took a little longer than predicted, interest does not seem to have waned. There is mention of Go playing computers being even more difficult to construct, but I do believe master Go computers do currently exist.

Weiner believe that would-be masters, from whatever walk of life, will see machines as the perfect, uncomplaining, always obedient slave. I imagine this is exactly how the oligarchy feels about them; in addition to their seemingly endless zeal to replace humans.

Towards the end, it is stated in so many words that cybernetics should first be tested in the more precise fields of engineering and biology, where even here the data is sparse, before being applied to the formless fields of economics and sociology. But, in time, it will be (has been) applied. Given that this book is about 60 years old, and with the advent of the internet, particularly social media, acting as a perfect net for data mining human behavior, I’d say that cybernetics has been applied to modern social sciences. Though, that might be an unfair assessment. Was it not cybernetics, by another name, that was used in Cultural Patterns and Technical Change?

Unrelated, but interesting none-the-less, Weiner recounts a dinner he shared with a number of doctors, one a Nobel laureate. They all agreed that it was only a matter of time before old-age could be cured. This begs many questions. Not the least of which is who decides which people live and which die, given the population bomb that would be unleashed under such a development.


“To begin with learning machines: an organized system may be said to be one which transforms a certain incoming message into an outgoing message, according to some principle of transformation. If this principle of transformations is subject to certain criterion of merit of performance and if the method of transformation is adjusted so as to tend to improve the performance of the system according to this criterion, the system is said to learn."

“However, even living systems are not (in all probability) living below the molecular level."

“Once such a master becomes aware that some of the supposedly human functions of his slaves may be transferred to machines, he is delighted. At last he has found the new subordinate – efficient, subservient, dependable in his action, never talking back, swift, and not demanding a single thought of personal consideration."

Table of Contents

· Preface

page 2:

· 01

page 7:
page 10:

· 02

page 17:

page 20:
page 27:

· 03

· 04

page 49:

· 05

page 58:

page 68:
page 69:

· 06

· 07

page 93:

· 08