CS 349 Contemporary Issues in Computer Science
Alan Cline

Elaine Rich

The Human Use of Human Beings


Read Norbert Wiener’s book, The Human Use of Human Beings.  Then answer the following questions:


1.      This book was originally published in 1950.  That’s almost 60 years ago.  Computers at that time were very different from the ones we use today.  To put Wiener’s comments in perspective, it is helpful to understand what he meant by the phrase, “high speed electrical computing machine”.  Give a short description of the most advanced computer available in 1950.  (Describe its speed, its memory, and its I/O capabilities.)

2.      In Chapter 1, Wiener focuses on the importance of feedback loops and he gives several examples from machines of his day.  Give a short description of the most sophisticated, feedback-controlled modern system you know about.

3.      In this book, Wiener displays a prescience that could strike us as amazing given the pace at which technology has changed over the last 60 years.  Give at least two examples of things Wiener says that, while obvious to only perhaps a few scientists and himself at the time he wrote, are still true today.

4.      Did Wiener make any claims that struck you, from our modern perspective as way off base?  If so, what are they?


Note:  Your answers may be short.  You’ll probably write two pages at most.  But we expect complete paragraphs and sentences.  Be sure to cite sources for any material that comes from someplace other than this book.