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George Dyson

Historian

George Dyson deals with the history of science and technology, in particular with the development of computer technology, artificial intelligence, digital telecommunications and space travel. AI is the subject of his book "Darwin Among the Machines", published in 1997. He deals with space travel in "Project Orion. The True Story of the Atomic Spaceship" (2002). Dyson also deals with the topic of digitization in his most recent book, "Turing's Cathedral" (2012). Although he never studied himself, Dyson is a sought-after lecturer at conferences and universities, such as the Institute for Advanced Study. He regularly writes for the online scientific forum Edge.org, which also features the essay "Childhood's End". The text was well received in the USA and was taken up by "Vanity Fair" and "Arts and Letters Daily", among others.

keynote | English

5.35 p.m.

Review
2019

Analog systems matter

The final keynote of the first day of the NZZ X.Days 2019 was held by historian George Dyson. In his speech, he talked about the current state of our digitalisation in a wider historical context. By referring to relevant figures like Barricelli, von Neumann or Leibniz, the science historian shows, that visions about intelligent machines go way back in time. We owe a large part of the digital network to early ideas. Our digital universe is not predictable. Micro processes are not going away but what we can see that creative people are taking and building analog systems layered on top of it. The value lays not in the complex software, but in its analog network itself. The American states that in our time of software the process of automatisation of complex calculations and processes decrease in importance and that the consequences of digitalisation lay increasingly on analog structures.