Just over 200 years ago the French philosopher-physician Lamettrie published his daring book, L’Homme Machine. He was a thoroughgoing materialist, as the title of his book suggests; and like everyone of his kind—from Democritus in ancient Greece to Bertrand Russell in our own day—he denied the spiritual principle in man, regarding the human organism as nothing more than complicated machinery.
Even in his presumably “enlightened” age this teaching was too much for many people, and Lamettrie fearing persecution left his native land to live as an exile in Berlin. But were the French savant living today, he would not find his theory altogether unpopular; and he could write about “Man the Machine” with little fear of being penalized for so doing. He would find support in many quarters, not least among people known as “Cyberneticists.”
Man’S Use Of Man
Cybernetics is a most important revolutionary development in modern science. The term itself comes from the Greek word for “steersman,” and is intimately related to the Latin term—so familiar in American politics—“gubernatorial.” Its contemporary usage is indebted to Dr. Norbert Wiener, noted professor of mathematics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. About 15 years ago he published his striking volume Cybernetics, followed in 1950 by a supplementary work on The Human Use of Human Beings.
This new development in science is closely associated with the so-called “electronic brain,” of which Univac is probably the best-known example. The ordinary man may know nothing about “cybernetics” strictly speaking, but he has some inkling of the amazing powers of Univac and similar contraptions. Here is the wonder of wonders—a machine, so it is claimed, that can think, remember, choose, calculate ...1
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