Dark Hero of the Information Age: In Search Of Norbert Wiener--Father of Cybernetics

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9780738203683: Dark Hero of the Information Age: In Search Of Norbert Wiener--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.

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From the Inside Flap:

[AUTHORIZED "BLURBS" PRINTED IN FULL ON BACK COVER/INSIDE FLAP:]

"I cannot imagine a new history more significant in the here and now than this one, eight years in the making. The wisdom and grace of its presentation, moreover, put me in mind of Edward Gibbon." - Kurt Vonnegut

"The information age was launched in 1948 with a brilliant book called Cybernetics by Norbert Wiener, a pioneer in computers and communications. This fascinating biography of Wiener captures his brilliance and his dark side, and it shows how his new way of thinking made him one of the most influential innovators of our times. It's a truly exciting tale." - Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

"Dark Hero of the Information Age is superb. Norbert Wiener, who was my mentor for a decade, was a brilliant and complex man, and the authors relate Wiener's ideas in illuminating detail. It is certainly a thrilling book—and the story is still continuing today." - Oliver Selfridge, MIT Media Lab pioneer of Artificial Intelligence

"This exciting book offers a timely correction to the misapprehensions and neglect surrounding Norbert Wiener’s deeply felt concerns for the social and human consequences of automation and cybernetics." - Stuart Bennett, Honorary Research Fellow, The University of Sheffield

"Norbert Wiener was a great thinker and a tortured person. His work was an inspiration to me, as it was to many, but his personal history was only known through the filter of watered down anecdotes. I read Dark Hero of the Information Age with great interest and emotion; it is a revelation of the man behind the mind." - Benoit Mandelbrot pioneer of chaos theory and fractal geometry author of The (Mis)behavior of Markets

"Dark Hero of the Information Age is doubly fascinating for the drama of Wiener’s erratic personal odyssey and the way in which each episode expands our understanding of the benefits and perils of contemporary technology. Conway and Siegelman weave a user-friendly narrative, written for non-experts who want to understand where we are now and how we got there, yet I believe the experts too will find themselves surprised into a new thoughtfulness." - Mary Catherine Bateson Institute for Intercultural Studies, author of Willing to Learn: Passages of Personal Discovery

About the Author:

Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman are award-winning journalists and the authors of the bestselling Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change and Holy Terror: The Fundamentalist War on America's Freedoms in Religion, Politics, and Our Private Lives . They live in New York City. Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman are award-winning journalists and the authors of the bestselling Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change and Holy Terror: The Fundamentalist War on America's Freedoms in Religion, Politics, and Our Private Lives . They live in New York City.

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Flo Conway, Jim Siegelman
Editorial: Basic Books (2004)
ISBN 10: 0738203688 ISBN 13: 9780738203683
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Conway, Flo, Siegelman, Jim
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Conway, Flo; Siegelman, Jim
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