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Heinz von foerster


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Heinz von foerster

  1. 1. Heinz Von Foerster Memories of Macy Conferences and foundation of Biological Computer Laboratory
  2. 2. Heinz Von Foerster <ul><li>Studied Physics in Vienna </li></ul><ul><li>Was in contact with the philosophers from Vienna Circle (interest in Wittgenstein) </li></ul><ul><li>Invited to 6th Macy Conference for his Quantum mechanical theory of memory </li></ul>
  3. 3. Macy Conferences <ul><li>interdisciplinary meetings (“hard” and “soft” scientist) </li></ul><ul><li>Topic: system theory and cybernetics (title: Cybernetics - Circular Causal and Feedback Mechanism in Biological and Social Systems) </li></ul>
  4. 4. some of Macy’s participants… <ul><li>Warren McCulloch </li></ul><ul><li>Neuropsychiatrist </li></ul>Margaret Mead / Gregory Bateson Anthropologists Arturo Rosenblueth Physiologist John von Neumann Mathematician started the computer revolution Heinrich Klüver Physiologist Norbert Wiener Mathematician coniated the term “ cybernetics” HvF
  5. 5. HvF’s Quantum mechanical theory of memory <ul><li>How do we forget? </li></ul><ul><li>Elementary content </li></ul><ul><li>of consciousness </li></ul><ul><li>are saved on </li></ul><ul><li>self-destroying </li></ul><ul><li>“ molecules” </li></ul><ul><li>How memory works? </li></ul><ul><li>Feedback loop of </li></ul><ul><li>circular causality </li></ul>Repetition Learning
  6. 6. How to apply mathematics to living sistems? <ul><li>Propositional calculus </li></ul><ul><li>Theory of non-trivial machines </li></ul>
  7. 7. Propositional calculus (formal logic) <ul><li>Deals with true/false sentences </li></ul><ul><li>Uses sign and rules to “calculate” truth of combination of sentences </li></ul>
  8. 8. Neural networks as logical machines <ul><li>McCulloch noticed that nerves have </li></ul><ul><li>an “all-or-none” (binary) response </li></ul><ul><li> A neuron is similar to a logical operator! </li></ul><ul><li>McCulloch built neural networks calculating truth functions </li></ul><ul><li>Von Neumann: so everything that can be described with a finite number of words, could be represented using a neural network. (Birth of AI) </li></ul>
  9. 9. Trivial and non-trivial machines <ul><li>Trivial machine has one inner state; same input = same output </li></ul><ul><li>Non-trivial m. have >1 inner state; they are deterministic (no random) but same input = different output </li></ul><ul><ul><li>history dependent </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>unpredictable </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. The universe as non-trivial machine <ul><li>In 18th century’s philosophy, causal linearity leads to the idea that having enough data, it could be possible to predict the future of the world. </li></ul><ul><li>HvF: If we assume that </li></ul><ul><ul><li>men are part of the universe </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>men are non a trivial machine </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>universe is a non trivial machine. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>As Wittgenstein sentenced “We cannot infer the events of the future from those of the present. Belief in the causal nexus is superstition”. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Undecidability as basis of ethics <ul><li>Like non-trivial machines show, many systems are not analyzable (undecidable) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>HvF saw in this undecidability a space of freedom for the man. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>metaphysics (HvF def.): the activity of the man who choose an answer to an undecidable question </li></ul><ul><ul><li>metaphysical postulate: &quot;only those questions that are in principle undecidable, we can decide.“ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ the decidable questions are already decided by the choice of the framework in which they are asked.” (=decision is a cultural problem) </li></ul><ul><li>Freedom + undecidability = responsibility </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ethics is possible only if there is freedom (given by undecidability) </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Parallel computation <ul><li>Von Neumann’s sequential computer </li></ul><ul><li>HvF noticed that in living beings operation are processed parallely </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Example: Eye (millions of rod and cone cells) </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Biological Computer Lab <ul><li>In order to work on parallel computation, </li></ul><ul><li>in 1958 at the University of Illinois </li></ul><ul><li>Von Foerster founded </li></ul><ul><li>the Biological Computer Lab. </li></ul>