Invention: The Care and Feeding of Ideas

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Internationally honored for brilliant achievements throughout his career, author ofCybernetics, ExProdigy, and the essay God and Golem, Inc., which won the National Book Award in1964, Norbert Wiener was no ordinary mathematician. With the ability to understand how things workedor might work at a very deep level, he linked his own mathematics to engineering and provided basicideas for the design of all sorts of inventions, from radar to communications networks to computersto artificial limbs. Wiener had an abiding concern about the ethics guiding applications of theorieshe and other scientists developed. Years after he died, the manuscript for this book was discoveredamong his papers. The world of science has changed greatly since Wiener's day, and much of thechange has been in the direction he warned against. Now published for the first time, this book canbe read as a salutary corrective from the past and a chance to rethink the components of anenvironment that encourages inventiveness.Wiener provides an engagingly written insider'sunderstanding of the history of discovery and invention, emphasizing the historical circumstancesthat foster innovations and allow their application. His message is that truly original ideas cannotbe produced on an assembly line, and that their consequences are often felt only at distant timesand places. The intellectual and technological environment has to be right before the idea canblossom. The best course for society is to encourage the best minds to pursue the most interestingtopics, and to reward them for the insights they produce. Wiener's comments on the problem ofsecrecy and the importance of the "free-lance" scientist are particularly pertinent today.SteveHeims provides a brief history of Wiener's literary output and reviews his contributions to thefield of invention and discovery. In addition, Heims suggests significant ways in which Wiener'sideas still apply to dilemmas facing the scientific and engineering communities of the 1990s.Norbert Wiener (1894-1964) was Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology.


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Invention: the care and feeding of ideas

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Introduced by science historian Steve Heims, this manuscript--written by a noted mathematician in the 1950s, with the latest revision dated June 1954--was discovered among Wiener's papers in the ... Read full review


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About the author (1994)

Marybeth Long Martello is a consultant with the United Nations Environment Programme. Her research and publications explore the intersection of global change science and governance for such topics as desertification, climate change, and whaling. She is co-editor, with Sheila Jasanoff, of Earthly Politics: Local and Global in Environmental Governance.

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