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Customer Review

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars important and relevant after half a century, February 25, 2007
This review is from: The Human Use Of Human Beings: Cybernetics And Society (The Da Capo series in science) (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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