- Reading and marking relevant sections in a book is easy. Transcription is is hard, and a long business. Of course there are ways around this such as OCR, scanning books into selectable text for those who didn’t know, and is something I have been doing small scale. However, the bulk of books I need are locked away in the British Library and in the reading ways there is no way of making copies except by using the extortionate photo-copiers which really isn’t a solution, so its back to long hand transcription for me.
– Getting ill never helps anything, and, while i don’t like to get too personal here, I have been slowed, quite a bit, by being ill. There was the cold/flu that muddled all thinking and coherency, and then there were the, unrelated, physical problems that make impossible to work. The physical stuff I’ve been dealing with for a few years now, but it can still strike and stop productivity dead. I’ve been told by a few people that it’s good I want to write and research, it means I can circumvent the need to be physical, which of course, to me, is stupid. My point is simply that being ill can stop things happening, which is what happened this last week.
– With the week geared towards transcription there was not really any ‘new’ and exciting things to be learned. Except of course finally realising that Norbert Wiener’s life was pretty awful, first his parents and then his wife. I’m sure I don’t have the full picture, but even a diminished amount of what I’ve learned would still lead me the same conclusion: Norbert Wiener was a true, polymathic genius, John Nash called him America’s home grown answer to John von Neumann, yet, at the same time Wiener was tortured in an all together way to Nash.
– week three also saw me begin to realise, more fully, the impact that Anglo-American, analytic, philosophy had on the founders of cybernetics. I mean, Wiener studied with Bertrand Russell for a year in Cambridge after receiving his PhD. Warren McCulloch was inspired by Russell and his ‘what is it to know a number..’. Walter Pitts sent a letter of criticism about Russells philosophy to Russell who invited him to come and study with him, Pitts couldn’t he was fifteen and wasn’t at university. Pitts also wrote a critical letter to Carnap who was at the university of Chicago and this time Pitts did actually go and study with Carnap, dealing with the foundations of logic. A teenager with a master.
– Right now it is easy to see how mathematicians and scientists would have read and been drawn to analytic philosophy, especially as philosophy, and science, was much more integrated into the wider world.
– I also began to see similarities between feedback loops and hermanetic cricles.
– This last week also saw me become aware of Egle Rindzeviciute whose book Constructing Soviet Cultural Policy: Cybernetics and Governance in Lithuania after World War II I have not read the entirety of, but, what I have read is fascinating, especially as I have so little knowledge of the Soviet Union, and cybernetics outside America. Right at the beginning is this lovely quote:
“I began my journey into ordering in cultural policy. Why were some objects listed as governable by the Ministry of Culture and others not? How could such different objects possibly be labelled with one term (“culture”) and accommodated in one administrative structure? What kind of governmental rationales and techniques made that list possible? Indeed, the fact that I ended up sitting with this list was a consequence of one question: What does it mean to govern and what makes culture governable? “
You Should Read: Peter Galison’s The Ontology of the Enemy: Norbert Wiener and the Cybernetic Vision