God & Golem, Inc. : A Comment on Certain Points where Cybernetics Impinges on Religion by Norbert Wiener
Cambridge, MA. : The M.I.T Press, 1964. First edition. Hardcover. 99 pages ; 21 cm. $3.95 dust jacket with some light foxing to the back of the dust jacket and some foxing to the top page edge. No markings within this book. Binding is firm.
God and Golem, Inc.
The new and rapidly growing field of communication sciences owes as much to Norbert Wiener as to any one man. He coined the word for it — cybernetics — and was himself a pioneer in information theory. More recently he had turned to the study of biological and neurological problems, and had been especially interested in brain waves and genetics.
In God and Golem, Inc., the author concerns himself with major points in cybernetics which are relevant to religious issues. One such point considered is that of the machine which learns. While learning is a property almost exclusively ascribed to the self-conscious living system, a computer now exists which not only can be programmed to play a game of checkers, but one which can "learn" from its past experience and improve on its own game. For a time, the machine was able to beat its inventor at playing checkers. "It did win," writes the author, "and it did learn to win; and the method of its learning was no different in principle from that of the human being who learns to play checkers."
A second point concerns machines which have the capacity to reproduce themselves. It is our commonly held belief that God made man in His own image. The propagation of the race may also be interpreted as a function in which one living being makes another in its own image. But the author demonstrates that man has made machines that are "very well able to make other machines in their own image," and these machine images are not merely pictorial representations, but operative images. Can we then say: God is to Golem as man is to machine? In Jewish legend, golem is an embryo Adam, shapeless and not fully created, hence a monster, an automaton.
The third point considered is that of the relation between man and machine. The concern here is ethical. "Render unto man the things which are man's and unto the computer the things which are the computer's," warns the author. In this section of the book, Professor Wiener also considers systems involving elements of man and machine.
God and Golem, Inc., written for the intellectually alert public, does not require of the reader that he have a highly technical background. The book is based on lectures given at Yale, at the Société Philosophique de Royaumont, and elsewhere.
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