Alan Turing and John von Neumann - Their Brains and Their Computers [chapter]

Sorin Istrail, Solomon Marcus
2013 Lecture Notes in Computer Science  
In this paper we discuss the lives and works of Alan Turing and John von Neumann that intertwined and inspired each other, focusing on their work on the brain. Our aim is to comment and to situate historically and conceptually an unfinished research program of John von Neumann, namely, towards the unification of discrete and continuous mathematics via a concept of thermodynamic error; he wanted a new information and computation theory for biological systems, especially the brain. Turing's work
more » ... ontains parallels to this program as well. We try to take into account the level of knowledge at the time these works were conceived while also taking into account developments after von Neumann's death. Our paper is a call for the continuation of von Neumann's research program, to metaphorically put meat, or more decisively, muscle, on the skeleton of biological systems theory of today. In the historical context, an evolutionary trajectory of theories from Leibniz, Boole, Bohr and Turing to Shannon, McCullogh--Pitts, Wiener and von Neumann powered the emergence of the new Information Paradigm. As both Turing and von Neumann were interested in automata, and with their herculean zest for the hardest problems there are, they were mesmerized by one in particular: the brain. Von Neumann confessed: "In trying to understand the function of the automata and the general principles governing them, we selected for prompt action the most complicated object under the sun -literally."
doi:10.1007/978-3-642-36751-9_2 fatcat:lsjeg25j2jegxcdmfjspufpn44