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audio/video
God and Computers, Lecture 1: Introduction (1:15:00) PLAY
God and Computers, Lecture 2: Randomization (1:15:00) PLAY
God and Computers, Lecture 3: Language Translation (1:15:00) PLAY
God and Computers, Lecture 4: Aesthetics (1:30:00) PLAY
God and Computers: Panel Discussion (1:10) PLAY
God and Computers, Lecture 5: Glimpses of God (1:20:00) PLAY
God and Computers, Lecture 6: God and Computer Science (1:21:00) PLAY
discussion forum (37 messages)


MIT God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth

Donald Knuth Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Artificial Intelligence Lab's 1999 God and Computers Lecture Series.

Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About
1. Introduction (1999-10-06)
2. Randomization and Religion (1999-10-13)
3. Language Translation (1999-10-27)
4. Aesthetics (1999-11-03)
5. Panel Discussion (1999-11-17)

with Mitch Kapor, the Mitchell Kapor Foundation, Founder of Lotus Development Corporation, Donald Knuth, Professor Emeritus for the Art of Computer Programming, Stanford University, Guy Steele, Distinguished Engineer, Sun Microsystems, Manuela Veloso, Professor of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University.
6. Glimpses of God (1999-12-01)
7. God and Computer Science (1999-12-08)

More Knuth on TechNetCast: Donald Knuth on MMIX , a 64-bit RISC computer that will be used in the upcoming edition of "The Art of Programming" as the environment for describing machine-level implementations.
Questions? Email us at mit-knuth@technetcast.com. Thanks for watching.

TechNetCast Catalog:
Donald Knuth 

Related Programs:
• Donald Knuth: MMIX, A RISC Computer for the New Millennium

FORUM

add a message to this thread

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by Arun Tripathi 1999-10-06 [#276]

Dear Prof. Knuth,

Wishing you well. It is a challenging theme. My question is, Is
Created is greater than creator OR Creator is greater than
created?

Thanks!

Sincerely
Arun Tripathi


[5 replies, expand] [reply]

Computers and Human Mind
posted by Arun Kumar Tripathi 1999-10-06 [#277]

Dear All,

Computers are usually sequential binary devices, human brains are
often parallel multidimensional devices which employ fuzzy logic.

The design of computers are known and so computer functioning
can be measured according to known designs, human brains were
designed through evolution and their designs are not well known
corresponding to difficulty of measurement according to design.

There are few evolutionary, genetic, cultural, pyschological, etc
direct influences on computer functioning, and many such influences
on human brain functioning.

Computers usually process without conflict and new learnings
according to conflict, human brains often process within conflict
and gain new learnings accordingly. Human brains are self aware,
computers usually not!

Computer functioning can often be measured without the functioning
being hindered, measuring the functioning of a human brain often
alters the functioning of the brain.

We know or can know how computers works, we do not know but are
coming to knopw (though incompletly) how thw human brain works.

Gordon Pask, Heinz von Foerster and Humberto Matturana among
many others have experimented and written on the subject.

I would like to welcome any thoughts on above!!

Sincerely
Arun Tripathi
[3 replies, expand] [reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by nisheet 1999-10-21 [#283]

Can the source of illumination of mind & intellect can itself
be an object for itself?
[2 replies, expand] [reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by Andrew Goh Soo Meng 1999-10-22 [#284]

Hi Prof. Knuth,

What has God got to do with computer science and computers? Aren't we understanding more about computers on our own than with his imperial interference.
[reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by Shah Jamal Alam 1999-10-22 [#285]

The question is not god and computer science. gods change with time and so the paradigm of science changes. there may be many gods in todays world..the Christian God, the Muslim God, etc.., the Hindu Gods, ...but Computer Science is none but one..wherever we are, we study same principles..we share same ideas...so computer science is more IMMORTAL than the concept of god
[3 replies, expand] [reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by Tim Toll 1999-10-27 [#290]

Don Knuth,
Hurrah for this idea. I went to a school where this was the
basis of our learning was to serve God. Now, after graduation,
it is a real thing. I am able to serve the God I love, doing what
I love. I am glad that others are looking at this idea. God
and computers are not mutualy exclusive.
Thanks for making this a none idea.

Tim Toll
[reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by Emanuel Goldstein 1999-10-27 [#291]

The concept of God is in itself illogical to the majority of the World population. Western Europe and most of American continent are the exception to the rule in this case.
Donald Knuth assumes you believe in that concept and them without actually proving anything, tries to say there is relation between Computers and `God'.

These primitive Humans should not be allowed to carry the title of Professor.
[8 replies, expand] [reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by Emanuel Goldstein 1999-10-27 [#292]

The concept of God is in itself illogical to the majority of the World population. Western Europe and most of American continent are the exception to the rule in this case.
Donald Knuth assumes you believe in that concept and them without actually proving anything, tries to say there is relation between Computers and `God'.

These primitive Humans should not be allowed to carry the title of Professor.
[3 replies, expand] [reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by Emanuel Goldstein 1999-10-27 [#293]

The concept of God is in itself illogical to the majority of the World population. Western Europe and most of American continent are the exception to the rule in this case.
Donald Knuth assumes you believe in that concept and them without actually proving anything, tries to say there is relation between Computers and `God'.

These primitive Humans should not be allowed to carry the title of Professor.
[7 replies, expand] [reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by Charlie Tuppen 1999-10-27 [#311]

Hello Dr. Knuth,

A friend of mine met you tonight (10/27/99) at your MIT lecture
and I am enjoying listening to the lectures as I type this.

I would like to invite you to visit my web page at : http://i.am/startupngo

It is Scriptural in nature, and while it may not be readily accepted at first blush,

I believe you may find the concept interesting if not intriguing...

I would welcome your thoughts should you care to share them.

All the best,

Take care & God Bless,

Charlie Tuppen
[reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by Muse 1999-10-28 [#314]

The judgement is premature and I am sure but I couldn't step
any further that Donald probably could have probably peered
into. Aren't we a little far fetched in our own begging-intellect
to parallel ourselves with God? When man addresses God he probably
addresses himself in reality. By this rationale, Donald is
indeed brave to bare himself - if his hypothesis persuade us.
[reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by Dominic 1999-10-28 [#315]

You're all idiots. God and comparisons between god and computers
(notice I use lowercase)is fundamentally flawed. God (if he exists,
I'm a catholic so I figure I'll say sorry just before I die to
even the odds) can reason, computers cannot. Computers however AI
evolves will never be able to order fries with that.
[4 replies, expand] [reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by andrew 1999-10-28 [#319]

I love how everyone who does believe in god tries to force it upon others. All of the athiests i know (including myself) would never try to push their beliefs on others. I think all of the 'believers' out there should find something new to do rather than threaten athiests with hell. Another thing, leave your 'god' out of computers. Logic will prevail, computers a logical, no AI computer would ever believe in a 'god'.
[5 replies, expand] [reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by Marijn Neevens van Baal 1999-10-28 [#320]

If God made us all just to be like Him,
He probably also gave us the instinctive
urge to create things that are just like
us and that mimic our behaviour.

Thus, the fact that lots of people are
currently working on AI, is a proof
of the conjecture that we were created
by an Entity that tends to create things
that are just like It.


[reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by mikeyz 1999-10-28 [#326]

You should all bow to the genius of Dr. Knuth. Without him, there would be know Computer Programming Bible (ironically enough)
I think we can agree that these threads demonstrate that god is individually-defined, thus there is futilitey in any persuasive argument to tell another what god is. Even if its successful, youve really just confused the indivdual more then helped.
And ones anger level is negatively proportional to ones persuasiveness.
The idea of discussion is to generate origional thought, not so we can beat eachother about the head with necessarily-individual dogmas.

func this(){god.bless(you) | !god.bless(you)}
[1 replies, expand] [reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by Pankil Richards 1999-10-28 [#329]

Nothing is absolute and everything is dynamic--that includes not
only what D.K. has to say, but also what I'm writing at this
very time.

Maybe tommorow he, as well as I, will have a different perspective.
[2 replies, expand] [reply]

Dr Knuth Likely Is Not Here
posted by Kent Borg 1999-10-28 [#331]

Dr. Knuth does not do email and probably is not listening here.



See his web page (search it out, his name is Knuth, he works at Stanford) to learn more about communications with him.



-kb, the Kent who is happy to discover recordings of the lectures he has so far missed.


[reply]

Toward a Proof of Polytheism or the impossibility of God.
posted by Ben Tompkins 1999-10-30 [#335]

There is a predominant consensus among academic philosophers today, which has its roots in Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, that meaning is a contingent property of contingently meaningful things. It is widely held that meaningful things like words, gestures, and signs in general become endowed with meaning by virtue of an essentially social process involving a community of flesh-and-blood human beings who collectively assign meaning to ostensible and reproducible spatio-temporal objects for purposes of communication. The notion that thoughts are genuine objects that populate a mysterious realm of "abstract entities" is attributed to the groundless reification of a set of cognate nouns such as "belief", "thought", and "proposition."

In support of this view, it is pointed out first that reification of concepts and propositions is not a prerequisite for making sense out of common-sense talk of word and sentence meaning and secondly that the implication of the opposite view that meanings are genuine objects forces the unintelligible result that physical objects like words and sentences are in some strange way "associated" with their meanings, which exist as disembodied counterparts of their manifestations in language.

What all this has to do with the question of monotheism is explained below.

If the social theory of meaning is correct, then it is impossible for the sort of God with a capital "G", which monotheists like Donald Knuth accept, to entertain thoughts independently of a community of like-minded individuals who share a common language. But this result would incur a direct hit against the Judeo-Christian concept of God as a once isolated mind capable not only of existing but of wanting other lesser minds to exist independently of whether such minds actually do exist. Of course, there is always room for a polytheistic reconstruction of modern religion along more conceptually adequate lines, but I do not think that either scientists or most contemporary religious thinkers would find this alternative acceptable in the least.

If the above line of reasoning is valid, then monotheism entails an unusually strong form of Platonism wherein thoughts, concepts, ideas, and propositions are granted full ontological status alongside atoms, cells, living organisms, planets and stars. Moreover, to the extent that this ancient view has been refuted by philosophers such as Wittgenstein and perhaps W.V. Quine, so has every possible form of monotheism been refuted with equal force and finality.
[2 replies, expand] [reply]

Monotheism and Wittgenstein\'s Social Theory of Meaning
posted by Ben Tompkins 1999-10-30 [#336]

Remote Interlocutor:

Please accept my recent submission under the title "Polytheism or the impossibility of God" under the new title posted here, which I feel is at least more appropriate to the content it encapsulates, if not more compelling besides.
[reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by Eric W. Burns 1999-10-31 [#337]

I see many acerbic posts from atheists on this page, and
so I would just like to applaud Mr. Knuth for not being
afraid to go on record about what he believes. As a
Christian who happens to be a computer programmer, I'm
glad to see one of the founding fathers of computer science
is also a Christian. And I've listened to the lectures,
they're very interesting. I look forward to hearing the
others.

-Eric W. Burns
[reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by Muse 1999-11-01 [#342]

Prof. Knuth, I suspect, did not really bare himself on the more
apostatic scale than seeing himself challenging the ultimate
authority that gave birth to his ideas. He is restless and the
utlimate response must indeed come from us, among us - who?
[1 replies, expand] [reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by Chris H. 1999-11-08 [#361]


As as an atheist, I applaud the Knuthster for sticking to his beliefs and thank him for making this appearance, I look forward to hearing more. Those persons on this board who feel that an individual's beliefs on God/gods is grounds for making vehement judgements about the individual's intelligence have obviously neither travelled very far nor read very much. Do you cats not understand that not all religious people are dogmatists?


[1 replies, expand] [reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by Muse 1999-11-15 [#367]

God illuminates. Can we see?
[reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by Andrew 1999-12-01 [#413]

when will mp3 versions of these talks be posted? The first lecture has been posted, but many of us are anxiously awaiting the full set.
[reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by Steve 1999-11-17 [#378]

Has anybody who has been posting here actually listened to or watched the lectures?? Or am I the only one to have been bored out of my mind?

What is the point of going over the stuff that is in 3:16? Why doesn't he just tell us to buy the book and get it over with? I have yet to see anything insightful in the lectures, just minutia on 3:16 that is positively numbing. The lecture is on NEITHER God nor comp sci! It just seems to be a man ranting on his own brilliance.

It seems that the posts here (regardless of quality) are mostly more relevent than Knuth's lecture.

Steve Liu

[2 replies, expand] [reply]

God and Computers...are you guys serious?
posted by Keith Sibson 1999-11-18 [#380]


Computers and god? Well I come from the stand point of thinking that all christian science is bunk. That's my opinion, and I'm not going to justify it here. However, perhaps you people should think about reconciling COSMOLOGY and god first, before starting on computers. Or at least cosmology and the bible. Without that, what's the point of talking god in the context of any science?

Keith.
http://www.cs.strath.ac.uk/~keith/

[4 replies, expand] [reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by Brian Harrington 1999-11-22 [#387]

To put God on the same line as Computer Science is a mistake. Seeking after the nature of God is about a search for wisdom. It's philosophy (literally one who loves wisdom). The amount of Wisdom in the world is finite. The arguments about the nature of God transcend time.
The study of Computer Science however is about the persuit of knowledge. The amount of knowledge increases exponentially. New knowledge is acquired every day.
I also think that one day soon we will create artificial creatures with as much intelligence as ourselves. Because God has created us, it is inate in our nature to emulate his work of creation. But I would postulate that these creatures would not come to see us as Gods but would come to worship what we worship as God also rather like the redemption scene in the masterful sci-fi story Bladerunner where the cyborg discovers his own humanity and thus his own God.
[1 replies, expand] [reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by doomsday watch 1999-11-23 [#396]

The terms to describe God is found wanting. If there are attempts, it is to say "God must have seen it this way" or is it me?
[reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by haub 1999-11-24 [#397]

Thus he speaks and appears as simpleton and was ridiculed. Who would have known that the spirit rest upon him? Would God choose to speak through a worldly man's heart? And you discuss God?
[reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by Pete 1999-11-24 [#398]

Okay, nobody from Massachusetts should be posting here. We want posts that dont put down others (I find a lot of Ma. residents do that to make themselves "feel" good), that are open-minded, unselfish and not superficial.

Now, before the Mass. residents throw out defensive comments, hold yourself back for a moment and admit to yourself. You know who you are, and if you keep posting like this, your flodding the board with sensless messages. Now, to those who arent in my audience, this message is sensless and a waste of space. But in the long run, I hope the intelligent conversations will start back up.
[reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by haub 1999-11-29 [#402]

Indeed among us, we believe we know God but we also know God wouldn't
speak to us in any way sensible to us. First line of faith stepping
towards God deters many among us. Let us know what your computer
sciences parallel that of God that we may learn - God first among all.
[reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by Glenn Crist 1999-12-03 [#414]


This is exactly what Dr. Knuth described it as "the chance of a lifetime.
These are one man's thoughts and deep introspection of much literature,
many thoughts, views and prejudices.


I think they should be accepted as that, nothing more, but certainly
nothing less.


Dr. Knuth clearly stated that his purposes for doing this lecture series,
and writing his book for that matter, included:

1) A scarcity of Biblical or religious material written from
or for the viewpoint(s) of a computer scientist/mathematician.


And, perhaps more importantly
2) The books and "Christian" bookstores/reading rooms etc.,
which he had frequented tended to be "Holier than thou..." (by the way for
proof that you don't need to be a member of any organized religion or group
to be "Holier than thou..." read some of these postings!)


Folks, if you think that Dr. Knuth is "shoving" ideas down your throat and in your face, then
you can't possibly be listening, or even know what these terms mean
...but, after reading some of the rantings, ravings and diatribes on
this board, rest assured the rest of us do!


Forbid us please from ever having to suffer from use of AI/Computational
Logic that some of the posters to this board espouse "will prevail",
especially if their "logic" is used to build such machines or software.



[1 replies, expand] [reply]

Iam the GOD and Iam the COMPUTER
posted by Arvind Chauhan 1999-12-07 [#419]

Hello Dr. Knuth,
Iam not posting a question but am writing my view on the concept of God and Computers.
I think what all we can think is possible. All the truths and even the basic well established physical principles are relative to someone's thoughts and beliefs. I think therefore Iam. I think about earth's gravity and thus I can't fly, but if I think strongly I can defy that, with no extra means but the strength of human entity.
God is a manifestation of our beliefs. The logic and rationality of one brain might not go well with that of the other. That is why paranoids exist.
Computer_related_technology is a driver to attain our individualistic reality, it might be virtual to the external environment but it happens to the individual. Likewise God might be virtual to the external world but might happen to some.
And there is always a long road to travel before the individual becomes the truth. He won't need a God or a computer then. He will simply explode.
Do provide your relections on this.
[reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by mark 1999-12-17 [#447]

gentle readers,

here's my roughly 2 cents worth.

take a look at what is being posted and consider the assumptions.
everyone has a preference, but all preferences are not equal.

note the assumptions of materialism.
scripture lesson 1: 'God is a spirit, and those who worship Him
must worship in spirit and truth.' John4:24

note the assumptions of secularism.
scripture lesson 2: 'In the beginning God...' Genesis 1:1

note the singularity of Christ.
scripture lesson 3: 'Jesus said to him,"I am the way,and the truth,
and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me." '

these are vitally important, yet much ignored aspects of God,
in the context of modern 'education'. they have been replaced by
assumptions. the assumptions of materialism -- that only the physical
sensory world is existent, because we are able to directly
interact with it. the assumption of secularism -- that religious ideas
and institutions have no place in public life, implicitly, that
God does not matter anymore.

formal logic is not a man-made invention, it is a system that has
emerged from observation of how the material world really is.
are physical laws logical, or are they formulated to suit our
preference? does F=ma, or was this only a personal opinion held
by newton? it is just this existing logical form and framework
that transcends materialism and the material world that points
toward a universal structure
from which the non-eternal material universe is given its shape.
that undeniable presence of transcendent intelligence points directly
at a master logician, whom we christians refer to as LORD God,
the YAWEH of the hebrew scripture, we call the old testament.
accepting by faith the enormous assumptions of materialism and
secularism lead only toward a deep, dark existential void from
which there is indeed, no exit.

finally, a quote from an editorial written by philip johnson.
'... richard lewontin has written that scientists must stick to
philosophical materialism regardless of the evidence, because
"we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door" '

you must see, God has everything to do with it.

and that comes to about 2 cents worth.

just call me,
peppy laPew

[reply]

Hieroglyphic grammars
posted by ca314159 2000-02-04 [#458]

Dear Dr. Knuth,

Is the U.S. becoming a push-button, iconic, user-interface
for the rest of the world with software developement outsourced
to service economies like India, and machine code and hardware
outsourced to industrial economies ?

http://www.bestweb.net/~ca314159/
[reply]

Aaargh! Don\'t you guys see?!
posted by Mark 2000-03-02 [#470]

I'm astonished! So many of you are rabbiting on about "the concept of god" changing and computer science being immortal, and "[Gg]od and CS being incompatible.

If God exists as the omnipotent, immortal Creator (which I believe he does), then to say the above things is absurd. He is permanent, no matter what our "god flavour of the month" is; and interleaved with his creation to such an extent that he cannot be incompatible.

If he doesn't exist, then things like "the concept of god" are not even worth thinking about. God is either God or nothing, not some philosophical theory.
[reply]

God and Computers Lecture Series: Donald Knuth
posted by Muse 2000-05-11 [#693]

He speaks to a contrite heart.
She comforts him on her breast.
No words shall he utter.
For he is humbled by his majesty and her light.

Now, how shall we engineered our sciences towards that?
[reply]

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