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Norbert Wiener Quotes
The following quotes are taken mostly from the second edition (1954) of the book The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society, by Norbert Wiener. They are provided here for non-commercial/educational purposes because they are somehow very relevant with respect to Pink Floyd and the Publius Enigma, as well as much else for that matter. You should be able to find the book at a decent library. If not, you can buy the latest print of the book on-line at places like Amazon. It's hoped that these quotes will provide the reader with a glimpse of the connections between the book, TDB, and the Enigma. Words used by Publius, quotes from The Division Bell, as well as various other random quotes, have been interjected for the sake of variety.

"As entropy increases, the universe, and all closed systems in the universe, tend naturally to deteriorate and lose their distinctiveness, to move from the least to the most probable state, from a state of organization and differentiation in which distinctions and forms exist, to a state of chaos and sameness. In Gibbs' universe order is least probable, chaos most probable. But while the universe as a whole, tends to run down, there are local enclaves of whose direction seems opposed to that of the universe at large and in which there is a limited and temporary tendency for organization to increase. Life finds its home in these enclaves. It is with this point of view at its core that the new science of Cybernetics began its development."

res ipsa loquitur:

"I think myself that, rather like books, music is meant to enter into the brain, well via your ears rather than your eyes..."
-David Gilmour, BBC (1998)

"It is the thesis of this book that society can only be understood through a study of the messages and the communication facilities which belong to it; and that in the future development of these messages and communication facilities, messages between man and machines, between machines and man, and between machine and machine, are destined to play an ever increasing part."

"You're all so concerned with my identity - but you're just shooting the messenger. The message itself is what's important, and not who delivers it."

"Now, let me provide a few answers that will perhaps inspire more of you.
First of all, as you read further, you will better understand why my identity cannot be revealed." ('the message' does not reveal why)

"'It is the message that is important, and not who delivers it.'"

"In my own life, there was a book that did more than UNIVAC to revise my understanding of information and the machinery that manipulated it. In 1950 the mathematician Norbert Wiener wrote a pioneering and widely read study called The Human Use of Human Beings"
-Theodore Roszak, The Cult of Information
(author of The Making of a Counterculture)

"To live effectively is to live with adequate information. Thus, communication and control belong to the essence of man's inner life, even as they belong to his life in society."

"It is the purpose of Cybernetics to develop a language and techniques that will enable us to indeed attack the problem of control and communication in general, but also to find the proper repertory of ideas and techniques to classify their particular manifestations under certain concepts."

"When I control the actions of another person, I communicate a message to him, and although this message is in the imperative mood, the technique of communication does not differ from that of a message of fact. Furthermore, if my control is to be effective I must take cognizance of any messages from him which may indicate that the order is understood and has been obeyed."

"When I give an order to a machine, the situation is not essentially different from that which arises when I give an order to a person..."

"Thus the theory of control in engineering, whether human or animal or mechanical, is a chapter in the theory of messages."

"Wiener dubbed the new science cybernetics, another word whose Greek root carries with it the secret intention of the science. Kybernotos, in the original Greek, meant "pilot" or "steersman," and cybernetics was the science devoted to describing the pilot in all systems of information, the controlling /pp. 22-23/ intelligence for animals and machines, including the mind that steers human behavior and communication."
-David Porush, The Bomb was a Cyborg

"As your thoughts will steer you"

"I will be able to help steer you from time to time."

"So now I have been given a task - as your 'guide'..." -Publius

"This was the original premise of purposive systems as expounded by Norbert Wiener and Julian Bigelow in 1943: intelligent behavior evolves as a consequence of the ability to measure and keep account of the effects of a given signal through feedback loops that return a message signifying the magnitude of the result. These principles are common to automatic anti-aircraft guns firing at a moving target, neurons seeking to make the right connections inside the brain, laboratory animals facing a maze, corporations facing a free-market economy, or any other situation where it is possible to place a value on an objective at which to aim."
-George B. Dyson, Darwin among the Machines

"We are all steering."

"The result of Wiener's book (Cybernetics) was that the notion of feedback penetrated almost every aspect of technical culture. Though the central concept was both old and commonplace in specialized circumstances, Wiener gave the idea legs by generalizing the effect into a universal principle... Within a year or two of Cybernetics's publication, electronic control circuits revolutionized industry."
-Kevin Kelly, Out of Control

"It is fairly easy to see how the concept of feedback can be further extended to the realm of social groups such as families, firms, and indeed whole societies... Since Wiener wrote his book, the economic policies of this and indeed many other technologically advanced nations have increasingly become feedback controlled..."
-Walter A. Rosenblith, Afterword to the 1967 edition of Cybernetics and Society

"Where would rock and roll be without feedback?"
-David Gilmour, "Live at Pompeii"


["A clear understanding of the notion of information as applied to scientific work will show that the simple coexistence of two items of information is of relatively small value, unless these two items can be effectively combined in some mind or organ which is able to fertilize one by the means of the other.
This is the very opposite of the organization in which each member travels a preassigned path..."]

The Division Bell

"A question: what exactly is a division bell and where could this lead your thoughts?"

"Its a, a division bell, it divides the yeses from the noes."
-David Gilmour

"The simplest mechanical devises will make decisions between two alternatives, such as the closing or opening of a switch. In the nervous system, the individual nerve fiber also decides between carrying an impulse and or not."

"The nervous system and the automatic machine are fundamentally alike in that they are devices which make decisions on the basis of decisions they have made in the past."

"This view of the nervous system corresponds to the theory of those machines that consist in a sequence of switching devices in which the opening of a later switch depends on the action of precise combinations of earlier switches leading into it, which open at the same time. This all-or-none machine is called a digital machine. It has great advantages for the most varied problems of communication and control. In particular, the sharpness of the decision between 'yes' and 'no' permits it to accumulate information in such a way as to discriminate very small differences in very large numbers."

"In a certain sense, all communication systems terminate in machines, but the ordinary language systems terminate in the special sort of machine known as the human being."

"The fundamental metaphorical message of the computer, in short, is that we are machines - thinking machines, to be sure, but machines nonetheless."
-Neil Postman, Technopoly

"Man was nudged from the center of the universe by Copernicus; Darwin drew man's physical nature within the natural evolutionary process; man's unique claim to rationality was greatly reduced by Freud; and now, it seems, man is nothing but a highly complex communication-control system."
-Harold Hatt, Cybernetics and the Image of Man

" perfecting feedback and the means of rapid data manipulation, the science of cybernetics was gaining a deeper understanding of life itself as being, at its core, the processing of information."
-Theodore Roszak, The Cult of Information

"It is easy to make a simple machine which will run toward the light or run away from it, and if such machines also contain lights of their own, a number of them together will show complicated forms of social behavior..."

"This machine has two principal modes of action, in one of which it is positively photo-tropic and searches for light, and in the other of which it is negatively photo-tropic and runs away from the light."

"This feedback tends to accomplish the purpose of either positive or negative photo-tropism. It is the analogue of a voluntary feedback, for in man we consider that a voluntary action is essentially a choice between tropisms."

...Turn and face the light...

Poles Apart

Why did we tell you then
You were always the golden boy then
And that you'd never lose that light in you eyes

Hey you...did you ever realize what you'd become
And did you see that it wasn't only me you were running from
Did you know all the time but it never really bothered you any way
Leading the blind while I stared out the steel in your eyes -TDB

"Moreover, with his love for the gadget as a collection of wheels that rotate and make noise, he has emphasized the extended physical transportation of man, rather than the transportation of language and ideas. He does not seem to realize that where man's word goes, and where his power of perception goes, to that point his control and in a sense his physical existence is extended. To see and give commands to the whole world is almost the same as being everywhere."

"To see the greater importance of the transportation of information as compared with mere physical transportation, let us suppose that we have an architect in Europe supervising the construction of a building in the United States... Even at the present, there is no reason why the working copies of these plans and specifications must be transmitted to the construction site on the same paper on which they have been drawn up in the architect's drafting-room... Ultrafax gives a means by which a facsimile of all the documents concerned may be transmitted in a fraction of a second, and the received copies are quite as good working plans as the originals... In short, the bodily transmission of the architect and his documents may be replaced very effectively by the message-transmission of communications which do not entail the moving of a particle of matter from one end of the line to the other."

"We have thus established the basis in man for the simplest element in his communication: namely, the communication of man with man by the immediate use of language, when two men are face to face with one another. The inventions of the telephone, the telegraph, and other similar means of communication have shown that this capacity is not intrinsically restricted to the immediate presense of the individual, for we have many means to carry this tool of communication to the ends of the earth."

"The community extends only so far as there extends an effectual transmission of information."
(from Cybernetics, 1948)

"The present time is the age of communication and control."
(from Cybernetics, 1948)

"Because the new processes of domination to which people react are embedded in information flows, the building of autonomy has to rely on reverse information flows."
-Manuel Castells, The Power of Identity

"the enigma has been announced worldwide" -PE

"let me help by pointing out that there is another physical location that must be visited before final progress is made." -PE

"God is dead -- The WTO has replaced Him."
(banner quoted in: The Economist, 'World Trade Survey', October 3rd 1998)

"Now frontiers shift like desert sands
While nations wash their bloodied hands"

"Our world, and our lives, are being shaped by the conflicting trends of globalization and identity. The information technology revolution, and the restructuring of capitalism, have induced a new form of society, the network society. It is characterized by the globalization of strategically decisive economic activities. By the networking form of organization... By a culture of real virtuality constructed by a pervasive, interconnected, and diversified media system. And by the transformation of material foundations of life, space and time, as expressions of dominant activities and controlling elites... It is indeed, brave or not, a new world."
-Manuel Castells, The Power of Identity

"There are no people. There are no Russians, no Arabs, no Third Worlds, no West. There is only one holistic system of systems. One vast interwoven, interacting multi-varied multinational dominion of dollars -- petro dollars, electro dollars, Reichmarks, rubles, pounds, shekels. That's the atomic and sub-atomic and galactic structure of things today...There is no democracy. There is only IBM, ITT, AT&T, DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, Exxon -- these are the nations of the world today. The world is a business, Mr. Beale. Democracy is a dying giant, a sick, sick decaying political concept. It's a nation of two-hundred million totally unnecessary human beings as replaceable as piston rods."
-Arthur Jenson, Network (the movie)

"The central event of the twentieth century is the overthrow of matter."
-George Gilder

Wearing the Inside Out (continued)

(Think: communication via computer)

"One thing at any rate is clear. The physical identity of an individual does not consist in the matter of which it is made... The biological individuality of an organism seems to lie in a certain continuity of process, and in the memory by the organism of the effects of its past development... In terms of the computing machine, the individuality of a mind lies in the retention of its earlier tapings and memories, and in its continued development along lines already laid out."

"To recapitulate: the individuality of the body is that of a flame rather than that of a stone, of a form rather than as a bit of substance. This form can be transmitted or modified and duplicated, although at the present we know only how to duplicate it over a short distance."

["We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves. A pattern is a message, and may be transmitted as a message."]

"To hold an organism stable while a part of it is being slowly destroyed, with the intention of re-creating it out of other material elsewhere, involves a lowering of its degree of activity, which in most cases would destroy the life in the tissue."

"The fact that we cannot telegraph the pattern of a man from one place to another seems to be due to technical difficulties, and in particular, to the difficulty of keeping an organism in being during such a radical reconstruction."

"However, even now the transportation of messages serves to forward an extension of man's senses and his capabilities of action from one end of the world to another. We have already suggested in this chapter that the distinction between material transportation and message transportation is not in any theoretical sense permanent and unabridgeable.
This takes us very deeply into the question of human individuality. The problem of the nature of human individuality and of the barrier which seperates one person from another is as old as human history."

["...where man's word goes, and where his power of perception goes, to that point his control and in a sense his physical existence is extended."]

"We have modified our environment so radically that we must now modify ourselves in order to exist in this new environment."

"The difficulties lie in the fact that for these people (deaf-mutes) the act of conversation has been broken into two entirely seperate parts."

"The deprivation of hearing is overwhelmingly the deprivation of one thing- free participation in human conversation."

"The simplest type of breakdown exhibits itself as an oscillation in a goal-seeking process which appears only when that process is actively invoked."

In a word...overrun -TDB

"The Mechanism and History of Language"

"For millions of years mankind lived just like the animals     

 Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination

 We learned to talk"

-Stephen Hawking, sampled in:

Keep Talking

"I wish to point out... that language is not exclusively an attribute of living beings but one which they may share to certain extent with the machines man has constructed. I wish to show further that man's preoccupation with language most certainly represents a possibility which is not built into his nearest relatives, the great apes. Nevertheless, I shall show that it is a possibility which must be made good by learning."

"To sum up, the human interest in language seems to be an innate interest in coding and decoding, and this seems to be as nearly specifically human as any interest can be. Speech is the greatest interest and most distinctive achievement of man."

"Man has held the notion that language is a mystery since very early times..."

"Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, most chimpanzees, in fact all that have as yet been observed, persist in being good chimpanzees, and do not become quasi-human morons."

" man, unlike the apes, the impulse to use some sort of language is overwhleming..."

"In control and communication we are always fighting nature's tendency to degrade the organized and to destroy the meaningful; the tendency,... for entropy to increase."

"As communicators (of any type) and as communicatees (of any type), about all that we can do, as Norbert Wiener suggests in The Human Use of Human Beings (1954), is to try to create 'islands of decreasing entropy,' where messages retain or gain, rather than lose, data."
-J.C. Merrel, John Lee, E.J. Friedlander, Modern Mass Media (on message entropy)

"I repeat, to live effectively is to participate in a continuous stream of influences from the outer world and acts on the outer world, in which we are merely the transitional stage. In the figurative sense, to be alive to what is happening in the world, means to participate in a continual development of knowledge and its unhampered exchange."

"As long as we are able to formulate the parameters or variables with respect to which information we want to be fed back, there is no limit to the extent to which our society can improve its functioning by learning from the consequences of its previous performance."
-Walter A. Rosenblith, Afterword to the 1967 edition of Cybernetics and Society

generally relevant:

"Vonnegut's earliest novels hint strongly at his familiarity with Wiener's work, The Human Use of Human Beings, especially his first novel, Player Piano (1952), which shows his concern for the social implications of automation, the replacement of human beings with machines."
-David Porush, The Soft Machine: Cybernetic Fiction

"Some years ago, a prominent American engineer bought an expensive player piano. It became clear after a week or two that this purchase did not correspond to any particular interest in the music played by the piano but rather to an overwhelming interest in the piano mechanism..."

"The problem of the work of art as a commodity raises a large number of questions important in the theory of information..."

"Beauty, like order, occurs in many places in the world, but only as a local and temporary fight against the Niagara of increasing entropy."

"The intrinsic limitations of the commodity nature of communication are hardly considered by the public at large."

"The fate of information in the typically American world is to become something which can be bought and sold."

"It was no longer a group. It was just a marketing excercise that had nothing to do with music."
-Roger Waters

"We are in an age where the enormous per capita bulk of communication is met by an ever-thinning stream of total bulk of communication. More and more we must accept a standardized inoffensive and insignificant product which, like the white bread of the bakeries, is made rather for its keeping and selling properties than for its food value."

"I protest, not only as I have already done against the cutting off of intellectual originality by the difficulties of the means of communication in the modern world, but even more against the ax which has been put to the root of originality..."

"Communication is at the base of what is the most irreversible process accessible to the human mind, the progressive increase of knowledge."

"Irreversibility is the mechanism that brings order out of chaos."
-Ilja Prigonine, Order Out of Chaos

"It is rare to find a large number of thoroughly clever and unprincipled persons playing a game with each other. Where the knaves assemble, there will always be fools; and where the fools are present in sufficient numbers, they offer a more profitable object of exploitation for the knaves. The psychology of the fool has become a subject well worth the serious attention of the knaves..."
(from Cybernetics)

"The last stage of a world-historical formation is comedy." -Karl Marx

"The newspaper is a vehicle for advertisement and an instrument for the monetary gain of its proprietor, as are also the movies and the radio. The school and the church are not merely refuges for the scholar and the saint: they are also the home of the Great Educator and the Bishop." [from Cybernetics (notice the odd capitalization, this is widespread in the first edition of Cybernetics and Society as well as the messages sent by Publius)]

"The matter of time is essential in all estimates of the value of information. A code or cipher, for example, which will cover any considerable amount of material at high-secrecy level is not only a lock which is hard to force, but one which takes considerable time to open legitimately."

"It was designed to be unlocked only with time and healthy perseverance."

"Within any world with which we can communicate, the direction of time is uniform."
(from Cybernetics)

"I have previously said that when an invention is made, a considerable period generally elapses before its full implications are understood."

"To anticipate a bit, and to capsulate a good deal, let me suggest that cybernation has much in common with the acoustic world and very little in common with the visual world."
-Marshall McLuhan, "Cybernation and Culture"

"There are communities ruled by despots, in which every relation between two subjects becomes secondary to the relation between the subject and his king."

"Many of those who are most attached to this orderly state of permanently allotted functions would be confounded if they were forced to admit this publicly. They are only in a position to display their clear preferences through their actions. Yet these actions stand out distinctly enough."

"Variety and possibility are inherent in the human sensorium--and are indeed the key to man's most noble flights--because variety and possibility belong to the very structure of the human organism."

Each of us

A cell of awareness

Imperfect and incomplete.

Genetic blends

With uncertain ends

On a fortune hunt that's far too fleet.

-Neil Peart, 'Freewill'

"I am afraid that I am convinced that a community of human beings is a far more useful thing than a community of ants, and that if the human being is condemned and restricted to perform the same functions over and over again, he will not even be a good ant, not to mention a good human being. Those who would organize us according to permanent individual functions and permanent individual restrictions condemn the human race to move at much less than half-steam. They throw away nearly all our human possibilities and by limiting the modes in which we may adapt ourselves to future contingencies, they reduce our chances for a reasonably long existence on this earth."

"Welcome to the Machine"

"All in all, you're just another brick in the wall"

"I have spoken of machines, but not only of machines having brains of brass and thews of iron. When human atoms are knit into an organization in which they are used, not in their full right as responsible human beings, but as cogs and levers and rods, it matters little that their raw material is flesh and blood."

"I have said that the modern man, and especially the modern American, however much 'know-how' he may have, has very little 'know-what'"

"Wiener pleads that we not become slaves to technological 'know-how' without accompanying it by an appropriate level of 'know-what', i.e., by a clear understanding of what our purposes are and how we can best accomplish them. In these passages Wiener is at his prophetic best: many of the recent discussions on the technological threats to the quality of our environment are foreshadowed here."
-Walter A. Rosenblith, Afterword to the 1967 edition of Cybernetics and Society

"Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so."
-Douglas Adams, Last Chance to See

"It is for those of you who now believe,..."

"To validate the trust of those who believe,..." -Publius

"No time to be deceived.
Oh, brothers, you should know and not believe"
-Bob Marley, 'Ride Natty Ride'

"Have faith and be assured that what I am about to explain is very real."

"If I don't promise you the answers would you go." (go away?) -PE

"A faith which we follow upon orders imposed from the outside is no faith, and a community which puts its dependence upon such a pseudo-faith is ultimately bound to ruin itself because of the paralysis which the lack of a healthily growing science imposes upon it"

"It matters little whether the military band to which one has pledged oneself be that of Ignatius Loyola or that of Lenin, so long as he considers it more important that his beliefs should be on the right side than that he should maintain his freedom and even his professional naivete."

"Any religious order which is based on the military model is under this same temptation to lapse into the Manichaean heresy."

"Power and the search for power are unfortunately realities that can assume many garbs."
(from God and Golem, Inc.: A Comment on Certain Points where Cybernetics Impinges on Religion)

A Great Day For Freedom

"And even though you needed me
It was clear that I couldn't do a thing for you" -TDB

"There is a second class of machines with which we have also been concerned... These machines may be used to make up for the losses of the maimed and of the sensorily deficient, as well as to give new and potentially dangerous powers to the already powerful."

"Thus the machine may generate the message, and the message may generate another machine."
(from God and Golem, Inc.)

"Any machine constructed for the purpose of making decisions, if it does not possess the power of learning will be completely literal minded. Woe to us if we let it decide our conduct, unless we have previously examined its laws of action, and know fully that its conduct will be carried out on principles acceptable to us!"

"Everything that human beings are doing to make it easier to operate computer networks is at the same time, but for different reasons, making it easier for computer networks to operate human beings."
-George B. Dyson, Darwin among the Machines

"Its real danger, however, is the quite different one that such machines, though helpless by themselves, may be used by a human being or a block of human beings to increase their control over the rest of the human race or that political leaders may attempt to control their populations by means not of machines themselves but through political techniques as narrow and indifferent to human possibility as if they had, in fact, been conceived mechanically"

"An was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?"

-William Blake

"The dominance of the machine presupposes a society in the last stages of increasing entropy, where probability is negligible and where the statistical differences among individuals are nil. Fortunately we have not yet reached such a state."

"Throughout human history we have been dependent on machines to survive. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony."
-Morpheus, 'The Matrix'

"All technologies converge toward the same spot, they all lead to a Deus ex Machina, a machine-God."

"I agree with what Einstein used to say about the three bombs: there are three bombs. The first one is the atomic bomb, which disintegrates reality, the second one is the digital or computer bomb, which destroys the principle of reality itself - not the actual object - and rebuilds it, and finally the third bomb is the demographic one."

"We have not understood the power of the virtual accident."
-Paul Virilio

"But we are not yet spectators at the last stages of the world's death. In fact these last stages can have no spectators."

High Hopes

"The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent, but if we can come to terms with the indifference, then our existence as a species can have genuine meaning. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light."
-Stanley Kubrick

"The Greeks regarded the act of discovering fire with very split emotions."

"The sense of tragedy is that the world is not a pleasant little nest made for our protection, but a vast and largely hostile environment, in which we can achieve great things only by defying the Gods; and that this defiance inevitably brings its own punishment."

"We are the slaves of our technical improvement and we can no more return a New Hampshire farm to the self-contained state in which it was maintained in 1800 than we can, by taking thought, add a cubit to our stature or, what is more to the point, diminish it. We have modified our environment so radically that we must now modify ourselves in order to exist in this new environment. We can no longer live in the old one. Progress imposes not only new possibilities for the future but new restrictions."

"Just as entropy is a measure of disorganization, the information carried by a set of messages is a measure of organization. In fact, it is possible to interpret the information carried by a message as essentially the negative of its entropy, and the negative logarithm of its probability. That is, the more probable the message, the less information it gives. Cliches, for example, are less illuminating than great poems."

"As we have said, nature's statistical tendency to disorder, the tendency for entropy to increase in isolated systems, is expressed in the second law of thermodynamics. We as human beings, are not isolated systems."

"In physics, the idea of progress opposes that of entropy, although there is no absolute contradiction between the two."

"Organism is opposed to chaos, to disintegration, to death, as message is to noise."
"A bureaucracy and a factory are automated machines in Wiener's view. The whole world -- even the universe -- could be seen as one big feedback system subject to the relentless advance of entropy, which subverts the exchange of messages that is essential to continued existence" -M. McAdams, Wiener: Ideas

"It is my thesis that the physical functioning of the living individual and the operation of some of the newer communication machines are precisely parallel in their analogous attempts to control entropy through feedback."

"It is my impression that searching together and exchanging information openly has enhanced your progress." -PE

"In a very real sense we are shipwrecked passengers on a doomed planet."

"May we have the courage to face the eventual doom of our civilization as we have the courage to face the certainty of our personal doom."

I leave you with this:

The universe inhales, a snowflake falls,
galaxies collide, a flower blooms, fades,
a bird sings, the cosmos reels,
autumn leaves turn,
death and life,
eternal duet.
After a year, a decade, a century has passed,
we look back in wonder at the beauty of times tapestry.
We live, we love, we praise god, we die,
The universe exhales.
-Joseph R. Veneroso

I remain,

Amicus humani generis

quorum pars magna fui
magni nominis umbra

"Life is an island here and now in a dying world. The process by which we living beings resist the general stream of corruption and decay is known as homeostasis. We can continue to live in the very special environment which we carry forward with us until we begin to decay more quickly than we reconstitute ourselves. Then we die."

"We are but whirlpools in a river of ever-flowing water. We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves.
A pattern is a message, and may be transmitted as a message."

The water flowing

The endless river

Forever and ever- TDB

Publius Enigma: The Final Message