[Humanist] 26.454 when does amplification make new?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Nov 5 07:27:35 CET 2012

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 454.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sun, 04 Nov 2012 20:55:14 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: when amplification makes something new

In George R Stibitz and Jules A Larrivee, Mathematics and Computers 
(1957), the authors mention "a notion advanced by Warren Weaver that an 
increase in any ability by a factor of 10 or 100 is in effect a new 
*kind* of ability" (vi). Does anyone know where in print Weaver wrote 
that? And what do you make of such an assertion?

With regards to intelligence I have certainly met people in another league 
altogether -- e.g. when a teenager a fellow about my age who was in
mathematical ability (and, as far as I could tell, only in that respect) 
simply a different kind of creature. Olympic athletes suggest the same --
as one colleague said (she is prone to exaggeration) "like gods". In 
evolutionary terms we use a Linnaean scheme that distinguishes one 
kind from another by physiological criteria. Darwin advised that attempts 
to distinguish humans from animals systematically were by their 
number and differences shown to be in vain. Whatever Weaver intended,
Stibitz and Larrivee were suggesting that having the computer (as it
was then) meant having an ability. If I say that with this computer I am
now using, for example, I *have* thus and such an ability, in what sense
do I *have* it?


Willard McCarty, FRAI / Professor of Humanities Computing & Director of
the Doctoral Programme, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
London; Professor, School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics,
University of Western Sydney; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
(www.isr-journal.org); Editor, Humanist
(www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist/); www.mccarty.org.uk/

More information about the Humanist mailing list