W. Ross Ashby

29 Nov 1999 17:38

British psychiatrist, one of the brighter lights of the early days of cybernetics, who is extremely little known for all the quality of his work and all the eminent people he influenced --- Herbert Simon, Norbert Wiener, Miller, Galanter & Pribram, Stuart Kauffman (see below), and so on. In fact, I can't find any references to him in any of the standard biographical reference works on science, math, technology, computers, etc. (to say nothing of Britannica, which continues its steady decline from the heights of the 11th edition), and only passing mention of him in histories like Heims's The Cybernetics Group. This is bizarre and unjust, and I'd greatly appreciate it if anyone who could tell me anything about him would write me.

And adaptation. And intelligence, esp. intelligence augmentation. The "law of requisite variety." The idea that any deterministic system will eventually evolve its "own sort of life and intelligence, possibly in the zero degree." Where did his (unfortunate) infatuation with Bourbaki come from?