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Dark Hero of the Information Age: In Search of Norbert Wiener, The Father of Cybernetics

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  64 Ratings  ·  14 Reviews
Child prodigy and brilliant MIT mathematician, Norbert Wiener founded the revolutionary science of cybernetics and ignited the information-age explosion of computers, automation, and global telecommunications. His best-selling book, Cybernetics, catapulted him into the public spotlight, as did his chilling visions of the future and his ardent social activism.Based on a wea ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published August 29th 2006 by Basic Books (first published December 13th 2004)
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Rod Van Meter
Sep 21, 2016 Rod Van Meter rated it really liked it
A biography of Norbert Wiener, the genius who helped to create modern computing (both digital and analog), communication as a fundamental science, and especially modern control systems through the mathematics to describe feedback, in the science he called cybernetics.
It took me quite a while to get through this book, both because I've been busy with work and family, and because I kept putting it down and feeling like picking it up again was a task. And yet, it's well researched and well written,
...more
Kyle
Jan 30, 2011 Kyle rated it really liked it
Norbert Wiener was an American Scientist who found the field of Cybernetics, which is basically the study of complex systems and has a lot in common with control theory. My dissertation advisor is a control theory guru and suggested this book as a way to get my feet wet so to speak. I've always admired authors like James Gleick and Richard Feynman who can turn complex subject matter into easily readable material and I'm happy to report Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman do the same with their ...more
Ben Peters
Apr 05, 2011 Ben Peters rated it liked it
Norbert Wiener, the brilliant and tortured founder of cybernetics, has amassed a small shelf of biographical and autobiographical materials. Dark Hero, written by the prolific and thoughtful pair of Conway and Siegelman, is easily the most accessible, gripping, and breezy of the available accounts. Unlike the others, it focuses on the drama and family dynamics of Wiener's militantly academic upbringing and later mature forays into political activism and global conflict mediation. The conclusion ...more
Justarius
Oct 10, 2014 Justarius rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favs
This is one of the most thought-provoking books I've read in a long time. It blows my mind that I had no idea who Norbert Wiener was even though I read widely and avidly follow technology. The book was profound because it fleshes out Wiener's personal life and shows how it is deeply intertwined with his philosophy and his science. It made me wonder how many other important people history has forgotten.

The main quibble I have with this book is its organization. Because it is organized by theme,
...more
Alexander
Sep 22, 2014 Alexander rated it really liked it
Norbert Wiener might not be a household name, but according to this book, he should. This book chronicles both his research and his life in a highly readable and entertaining way.

Back in the first half of the 20th Century, Norbert Wiener, a former child prodigy, created a broad theoretical framework that influenced research in everything from computers and communications to psychology and anthropology. Despite being a first rate genius, though, Wiener suffered from severe bouts of depression wh
...more
Michael
Aug 11, 2012 Michael rated it it was ok
I knew of Norbert Wiener before I started at MIT. During my freshman year, I found out where he was teaching and stood outside his classroom listening to his lectures -- I didn't have the courage to go in. So I was excited to find this biography.

I learned a lot of new information on where he came from, what made him tick, etc. Unfortunately, like many biographers, the author did a good job of organizing the facts of Wiener's life, but didn't write with any flair. It made Wiener appear to be a v
...more
Kevin
Sep 16, 2010 Kevin rated it really liked it
On the whole, Dark Hero is a thoughtful, well written biography of the scientific and personal life of Norbert Wiener. The conclusion, however, is a jumbled screed railing against laundry list of social maladies, some real (international terrorism), some sensationalized (biotechnology), and others completely incongruous (the anti-globalization movement). The rant against piracy also seems forced, especially in light of NW's documented antipathy for intellectual property.
Sam
For a biography of the quintessential out-of-touch professor (he often forgot where he lived according to this), it is pretty damn entertaining. This may have to do with the sheer drama with which Wiener carried himself as well as the backstabbing that he experienced throughout his life. At any rate, I thought it was good.
TK Keanini
Apr 08, 2007 TK Keanini rated it it was amazing
This is a great book on Norbert Wiener. To know all that you can about Wiener is to understand first order cybernetics and to understand the Macy's conferences that game birth to all of the great thinkers of the time.
Tom
Jun 05, 2010 Tom rated it it was amazing
Excellent mathematician biography. Granted, it's for a general audience and will not be sufficiently technical for math student readers, but it's very insightful and well-researched re. Wiener's life, and breaks significant new ground.
Neal Fultz
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Nov 28, 2007
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Jason
May 07, 2010 Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
heavy on detail. a good lesson in why notebook dumping is something to be avoided.
Don
Don rated it it was amazing
Sep 20, 2013
Pr0x1mo
May 19, 2013 Pr0x1mo rated it really liked it
Good start off biography for another unsung hero to those foreign to Norbert.
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“The world of the future will be an ever more demanding struggle against the limitations of our intelligence, not a comfortable hammock in which we can lie down to be waited upon by our robot slaves.” 0 likes
“You know, he was very honest about it. He said, ‘What you do not use, you lose. These computers have so much potential, but they will ruin people’s brains.’ He said, ‘Swami, you will live to see it in the next century. I will not be here.” 0 likes
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