NorbertWiener.com will serve as a hub for a multi-dimensional campaign that includes a feature-length documentary film, a biographical documentary for science channels, and a multi-media educational resource center.
The feature-length documentary film (and a television version) about the life and ideas of Norbert Wiener will be our first step forward. It will not be a biography. We have secured an exclusive option to purchase documentary rights to the book Dark Hero of the Information Age: In Search of Norbert Wiener, The Father of Cybernetics, by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman and will draw on its substantial findings. Moreover, and more importantly, we can rely on Flo and Jim’s animated, articulated, and inspired undertaking to understand Wiener’s accomplishments and show their relevance in the current climate of questions concerning technology and human values.
The co-authors have agreed to appear in the film as documentary characters. They have been ensconced in a decades-long quest to bring Wiener and his work to the world’s attention — again, that is, after his initial notoriety as a child prodigy, and his later, global recognition in adulthood for his science of cybernetics and his outspoken concerns for the ethical use of the new technologies his new science helped to sire.
In addition to the highly praised biography, Conway & Siegelman’s appearance at the Boston, June 2014 IEEE sponsored conference (http://21stcenturywiener.org/) was documented. Key interviews for the documentary film were conducted at the conference as well as presentations by Mary Catherine Bateson, David A. Mindell, Andrew Pickering, Rudolf Seising, and Bruce Schneier, to name a few.
To lend balance to the story, we plan to interview or feature a range of contemporary and historical figures that fit into the following categories:
(a) “young Wieners” who share his vision and concerns
(b) those experts who agree with Wiener’s prophesies
(c) those critics who disagree with Wiener, and
(d) those who have adapted or absconded—“run away” with—some of his ideas without proper attribution (including people at the MIT Media Lab and Artificial Intelligence department, founders of the Internet, Claude Shannon, Marshall McLuhan, et al.)
Our association with the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California will be useful to our project as we refine a list of potential on-camera subjects that may include:
–Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, British engineer, computer scientist
–Sergei Brin – Russia-born Google co-founder
–Bill Gates – Founder, Microsoft
–Nicolas Negroponte – Founder, MIT’s Media Lab
–Robert Taylor – Pioneering computer scientist
–Mark Zuckerberg – Founder, Facebook
–Ray Kurzweil – American author, inventor, and futurist
–Jaron Lanier – Author and Virtual Reality pioneer
–Robert Schiller – Noble Prize-winning economist, Yale
Our preliminary research at the MIT archives has revealed that a substantial amount of archival material exists for use in the film that will enrich the visual dynamics of the story and amplify the film’s capacity to articulate complex ideas in compelling ways. These elements include film footage, audio interviews, photographs, letters, academic publications, and journalistic accounts. We also plan to use clips from dramatic movies that illustrate Wiener’s predictions and help define the scientific concept of Cybernetics.
While the documentary’s script is in the beginning stage, a cinéma vérité story-telling style, will emphasize the unfolding mystery of both Wiener’s work and Conway & Siegelman’s effort to resurrect Wiener’s legacy and prophecies. The ideas and predictions of Norbert Wiener are cornerpieces to current, vital discussions surrounding the use of technology and its impact on human beings. Some of the questions driving our investigation include: Why is there still opposition to his theories—despite evidence of their accuracy, efficacy, and haunting prescience? Why does his marginalization continue despite occasional flares of recognition?