Automatic Thoughts. The rise and fall of computers in PRL

Computers in PRL

Automatic thinking and mathematics go hand-in-hand, of course; however, the mathematician is more often than not concerned with the internal, formal structure of mathematical objects themselves. It is not before we turn mathematics into a tool for self-introspection that something interesting happens: in the spirit perhaps of Novalis’ astounding apothegm “das höchste Leben ist Mathematik”. Beckett, Borges, Queneau, to name just a few, are all busy at work in a large, coherent, systematic exploration, which climaxes with Turing’s mathematical model of a hypothetical, universal computing machine, as well as with Shannon’s information theory. Kafka’s Strafkolonie and Vaclav Havel’s Antikódy, on the other hand, turn everything topsy-turvy, investigating the progressive bureaucratisation and depersonalisation of the language of authority.

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