Norbert Wiener, the "brightest boy in the world" who thought that a machine and a brain were the same

Norbert Wiener, the "brightest boy in the world" who thought that a machine and a brain were the same

When Norbert Wiener (1894 – 1964) wrote his memoirs, he titled them, respectively, "Former Child Prodigy: My Childhood and Youth" and "I Am a Mathematician: The Later Life of a Child Prodigy".

At first glance it might seem that Norbert was indeed a very self-conscious person, but he is not. He didn’t call himself a prodigy just on a whim. It was. And already fourteen years old, his classmates described him as the "brightest boy in the world."


Tutored by his father, a Harvard University professor, Norbert studied Mathematics at Tufts, Zoology at Harvard, and Philosophy at Cornell. He also delved into symbolic logic and the Principia Mathematica with Bertrand Rusell himself , who did not have kind words: "The young man has been highly flattered and believes God Almighty."

Later, he would teach math classes at the MIT faculty. His appearance was that of a short, stocky man with a mustache and goatee. His specialty was predicting movements that seemed unpredictable, such as fluctuations in radar receivers.

For this reason, he was part of the clandestine teams of mathematicians who worked to perfect the fire control of anti-aircraft guns during World War II.

His other great obsession was cybernetics , the science that studies the functioning of the mechanisms and nervous connections of living beings. Not surprisingly, his first book was precisely entitled Cybernetics , published in the fall of 1948 in both the United States and France.

Norbert Wiener2

The book was abstruse, but it was an editorial phenomenon because it raised disturbing themes that made daily news: the advent of the first computers .

The fact that the first really powerful mechanical brains were born made Robert, sometimes more interested in philosophy than in mathematical reality, give interviews in magazines like Time , where he declared that "the better calculating machines men build, and the more You study these in your own brain, the more they resemble each other. "

In his view, a new age of intelligent machines would devalue the human brain as factory machines had once devalued its muscles. After all, for Robert the brain was only a logical machine that could be imitated, and even surpassed. The only difference is that the first used neurons, and the second used relays .