Norbert Wiener - Time Quotes
4 Sourced Quotes
What many of us fail to realize is that the last four hundred years are a highly special period in the history of the world. The pace at which changes during these years have taken place is unexampled in earlier history, as is the very nature of these changes. This is partly the results of increased communication, but also of an increased mastery over nature, which on a limited planet like the earth, may prove in the long run to be an increased slavery to nature. For the more we get out of the world the less we leave, and in the long run we shall have to pay our debts at a time that may be very inconvenient for our own survival.
We mathematicians who operate with nothing more expensive than paper and possibly printers' ink are quite reconciled to the fact that, if we are working in an active field, our discoveries will commence to be obsolete at the moment that they are written down or even at the moment they are conceived. We know that for a long time everything we do will be nothing more than the jumping off point for those who have the advantage of already being aware of our ultimate results. This is the meaning of the famous apothegm of Newton, when he said, "If I have seen further than other men, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants".
The measures taken during the war by our military agencies, in restricting the free intercourse among scientists on related projects or even on the same project have gone so far that it is clear that if continued in time of peace, this policy will lead to the total irresponsibility of the scientist, and, ultimately, to the death of science.... The interchange of ideas, which is one of the greatest traditions of science, must of course receive certain limitations when the scientist becomes an arbiter of life and death.... I do not expect to publish any future work of mine which may do damage in the hands of irresponsible militarists...
That country will have the greatest security whose informational and scientific situation is adequate to meet the demands that may be put on it—the country in which it is fully realized that information is important as a stage in the continuous process by which we observe the outer world, and act effectively upon it. In other words, no amount of scientific research, carefully recorded in books and papers, and then put into our libraries with labels of secrecy, will be adequate to protect us for any length of time in a world where the effective level of information is perpetually advancing.