Philosophy of Computer Science

Frankenstein's Monster vs. Norbert Wiener

Last Update: 21 April 2010

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Frankenstein's monster's lament:

"Like Adam, I was apparently united by no link to any other being in existence, but his state was far different from mine in every other respect. He had come forth from the hands of God a perfect creature, happy and prosperous, guarded by the especial care of his creator, he was allowed to converse with, and acquire knowledge from, beings of a superior nature, but I was wretched, helpless, and alone. Many times I considered Satan was the fitter emblem of my condition. For often, like him, when I saw the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose up within me. … Hateful day when I received life! …Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust?"

Dr. Frankenstein's justification:

"When younger,…I believed myself destined for some great enterprise. …I possessed a coolness of judgment that fitted me for illustrious achievements. This sentiment of the worth of my nature supported me when others would have been oppressed; for I deemed it criminal to throw away in useless grief those talents that might be useful to my fellow-creatures. When I reflected on the work I had completed, no less a one than the creation of a sensitive and rational animal, I could not rank myself with the herd of common projectors. But this thought, which supported me in the commencement of my career, now serves only to plunge me lower in the dust. All my speculations and hopes are as nothing; and, like the archangel who aspired to omnipotence, I am chained in an eternal hell. My imagination was vivid, yet my powers of analysis and application were intense; by the union of these qualities I conceived the idea and executed the creation of a man. Even now I cannot recollect without passion my reveries while the work was incomplete. I trod heaven in my thoughts, now exulting in my powers, now burning with the idea of their effects. From my infancy I was imbued with high hopes and a lofty ambition; but how am I sunk! Oh! my friend, if you had known me as I once was you would not recognise me in this state of degradation. Despondency rarely visited my heart; a high destiny seemed to bear me on until I fell, never, never again to rise."

Norbert Wiener's justification:

"If we adhere to all these taboos, we may acquire a great reputation as conservative and sound thinkers, but we shall contribute very little to the further advance of knowledge. It is the part of the scientist—of the intelligent man of letters and of the honest clergyman as well—to entertain heretical and forbidden opinions experimentally, even if he is finally to reject them."

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