2005-03-14

 

Von Neumann Augustus

I started my divine heterarchy with Bowie. Continuing my "Deityship series", I present my scientific deity: John Von Neumann. He certainly inspired and empowered many.



See the Wikipedia article for all the amazing advancements Von Neumann contributed to, or the book by my colleague Bill Aspray. What most inspires me about Von Neumann is his work on Self-Reproducing Automata. I have written about this at length elsewhere, indeed!

What is perfectly amazing about his self-reproducing model is that he independently arrived at a pretty complete model of neo-Darwinian selection before the DNA molecule, and its genetic role had been discovered! He pursued a purely theoretical approach to study the observation that unlike biological organisms, which can evolve to increase in complexity in an open-ended manner, our machines always degrade in complexity. He went about thinking how to build machines that could also increase in complexity. And, just by thinking about it, he reached a stripped down model of (genetic-driven)evolution. I can't think of anyone else to whom the term genius is more applicable.



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