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Comment: No writing, underlining or highlighting. A few dog-eared page corners. Tight binding; no creasing on spine. Moderate wear on cover with a scratch on front and some edge/corner curling.
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The Human Use Of Human Beings: Cybernetics And Society (Da Capo Paperback) Paperback – March 22, 1988


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The Human Use Of Human Beings: Cybernetics And Society (Da Capo Paperback) + Cybernetics, Second Edition: or the Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine + General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications (Revised Edition) (Penguin University Books)
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Product Details

  • Series: Da Capo Paperback
  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (March 22, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306803208
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306803208
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #212,234 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Norbert Wiener received his Ph.D. from Harvard at the age of eighteen, and joined the mathematics department at M.I.T. when he was twenty-five. Honored throughout his life with numerous scientific awards, he was the author of two autobiographies, Ex-Prodogy and I Am a Mathematician, as well as several important books and basic papers on the theory and practice of cybernetics.

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Customer Reviews

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Nobert Wiener`s book is a classic.
Saul Drajer
For those of us who cannot grasp the mathematical, technical version of Wiener's theory of messages in _Cybernetics_, this book is a wonderful stand-in.
Al Kihano
All in all, this is an outstanding book written in lucid, beautiful prose.
Chris Wells

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Al Kihano on January 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
For those of us who cannot grasp the mathematical, technical version of Wiener's theory of messages in _Cybernetics_, this book is a wonderful stand-in. Wiener wrote this entirely equationless text as a populariztion of his ideas about humans and machines. this book is a fascinating piece of philosophy and sociology also, as Wiener expands his theories and brings them to bear on history, journalism etc. He never loses his scientific perspective though; this gives his writing and ideas a clarity freshness that is uncommon in theoretical writings about society. This is a great and important book
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
Wiener was acutely aware of the promise and the danger of the new technolgies he was helping to invent. He worked very hard during the Second World War to help develop an anti- aircraft system which would make use of some of his mathematical and technical innovations. However the dropping of the Atomic Bomb turned him wholly against the military establishment and he became an insistent voice calling for regulation of military technologies.
His own vision of a humane society is one in which the cybernetic and feedback elements enable a better managing of the economy and society as a whole. And this when he again was very concerned about the possible destructive elements of technologies which would provide unreasonable means of control over individual human lives. He very much was concerned that a society in which machine- slaves produced everything would deprive humanity of its freedom and dignity.
In other words he saw great promise in the new technologies but also was concerned that might exercise a degree of control over humanity which would make them more harmful than beneficial.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Chris Wells on February 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
More than fifty years after its initial publication, this book remains as relevant and prophetic as it is brilliant and exhilarating.

To start, Wiener explains cybernetics in a way that the intelligent layperson can understand; he discusses how human beings, animals, and machines relate to one another through communication and feedback, thus becoming systems that limit or temporarily reverse the universal tendency toward disorganization (entropy). After establishing this framework, he discusses the implications of cybernetics on society. As he takes cybernetic theory to its logical conclusions--that is, accounting for the communication and feedback between human beings, machines, and the environment as a whole--his insights are shown to be profoundly humane and ultimately very inspiring.

This is no ordinary scientific text. There are discussions of Augustinian vs. Manichaean worldviews and their implications; the inevitable spread of dangerous information (such as that resulting in the atomic bomb) despite the strenuous efforts of governments; and the need not to rely on machines--non-human machines as well as "human machines" such as bureaucracies and corporations--to do the difficult work that human beings must do to remain ethical, responsible, and free.

All in all, this is an outstanding book written in lucid, beautiful prose. The book tells us as much about the systems that make up our world as it does about the brilliance, humility, and humanity of Wiener himself. No summary of this book, in blurb or review format, can possibly do justice to Wiener's achievement.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By whiteelephant on September 28, 2012
Format: Paperback
Norbert Wiener was the intellectual giant central to the birth of cybernetics. As described in "The Human Use of Human Beings" (1950), cybernetics was coined by Wiener to describe the emerging post-war synthesis of control, communication, and information, and its applications to technology, biology, social sciences, and seemingly everything. It was a remarkably ambitious project, which would eventually be sidetracked by personal politics and its displacement by digital computation and AI, but many of the prescient ideas of cybernetics and Wiener live on.

To be honest, "The Human Use of Human Beings" is somewhat of a mess. The unifying vision is undoubtedly there, but Wiener is remarkably discursive, venturing into tangential topics such as linguistic history, Leibniz' philosophy of monads, ciphers, prosthetics, chess playing machines, trial lawyers, and "the idea that one might conceivably travel by telegraph". Yet, it wouldn't be Wiener otherwise. These are the disorganized thoughts of one of the twentieth century's great geniuses and polymaths.

The book begins with cybernetics, that nexus of control, communication, feedback, information, entropy, and probability. To Wiener, the applied mathematician of statistical mechanics, his synthesis reflects "the impact of the Gibbsian point of view on modern life" (it is "Gibbs rather than Einstein or Heisenberg or Planck to whom we must attribute the first great revolution of twentieth century physics").
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Arthur Gershman on December 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
Norbert Wiener was a child prodigy and Professor of Mathematics at MIT from 1919 until his death in 1964. He invented the science of cybernetics (look it up in the dictionary) and the guided missile but refused to help the military during the cold war. This volume includes an open letter published in the January, 1947 Atlantic Monthly magazine entitled "A Scientist Rebels" by Norbert Wiener. An introduction by Wiener biographer Steve J. Heims provides a context for Wiener's works.
If you are at all interested in cybernetics, and particularly interested in the effects it is having and will have on society, this book is must reading. Of course, this book does not approach Wiener's "God & Golem, Inc."(reviewed elsewhere in Amazon.com) for sheer brilliance, but then, what does, except perhaps the "Bahir."
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