A School of Thinking
Heinz von Foerster and his Biological Computer Laboratory
Friday, 12th November 2010, 18:00
Neues Institutsgebäude, Hoersaal 1
Heinz von Foerster was a Magician, Physicist, Cybernetician, Mischiefologist, “Spieltandler”, Creator of Second-Order Cybernetics and much more. Less heralded, though supremely tantalizing, was Heinz’s Onomatopoiesis, the ability to manufacture clever, catchy appellations: Neuro-philoshopher for Humberto Maturana, “No Doppelgangers” for Gordon Pask’s Conversation Theory, Eigen-stories, Para Book and others. Together with his astonishing Stagemanship and charm Heinz was an exquisite maestro and master of (almost) all circumstance. Those of us who came close to him were Von-Foeresterized; put under his spell forever. Here we present some of the more mathematical activities of BCL together with zestful HvF anecdotes: his advocating birth-control to the Vatican Nuncio (at the Univ. of Ill. CU), quantizing the chronology of Magic to Historians, doing away with Causality and confounding the local cognoscenti at a distinguished lecture in California.
But how can it be that such an incredible persona is not much better (i.e. universally) known, recognized and acknowledged? What did he and the BCL do well, what not and what may still be corrected? I pose these perplexing questions to elicit stimulating discussions and insightful responses.
Alfred Inselberg is professor at the School of Mathematical Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Israel. He received his PhD. from the University of Illinois, Urbana, in 1965. He worked at the Biological Computer Laboratory with Heinz von Foerster from 1959 until 1966. Afterwards he worked for IBM and held professorships at the UCLA and the University of Southern California. He is author of a large number of scholarly articles. Recent book publication: Parallel Coordinates: VISUAL Multidimensional Geometry with Applications, Springer, 2009
(in cooperation with the Department of Contemporary History, University of Vienna and WISDOM, sponsored by the City of Vienna)