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John von
Neumann
COLLECTED WORKS
GENERAL EDITOR
A. H. TAUB
RESEARCH PROFESSOR OF APPLIED MATHEMATICS
DIGITAL COMPUTER LABORATORY
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
Volume
v
DESIGN OF COMPUTERS,
THEORY OF AUTOMATA AND
NUMERICAL ANALYSIS
PERGAMON PRESS
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View Full DocumentTHE GENERAL AND LOGICAL THEORY OF
AUTOMATA
JOHN VON NEUMANN
The Institute for Advanced Study
I have to ask your forbearance for appearing here, since I am an outsider
to most of the fields which form the subject of this conference. Even in the
area in which I have some experience, that of the logics and structure of
automata, my connections are almost entirely on one side, the
mathematical side. The usefulness of what I am going to say, if any, will
therefore be limited to this: I may be able to give you a picture of the
mathematical approach to these problems, and to prepare you for the
experiences that you will have when you come into closer contact with
mathematicians. This should orient you as to the ideas and the attitudes
which you may then expect to encounter. I hope to get your judgment of
the
modus procedendi
and the distribution of emphases that I am going to
use. I feel that I need instruction even in the limiting area between our
fields more than you do, and I hope that I shall receive it from your
criticisms.
Automata have been playing a continuously increasing, and have by
now attained a very considerable, role in the natural sciences. This is a
process that has been going on for several decades. During the last part of
this period automata have begun to invade certain parts of mathematics
tooparticularly, but not exclusively, mathematical physics or applied
mathematics. Their role in mathematics presents an interesting counterpart
to certain functional aspects of organization in nature. Natural organisms
are, as a rule, much more complicated
This paper is an only slightly edited version of one that was read at the Hixon Symposium on
September 20, 1948, in Pasadena, California. Since it was delivered as a single lecture, it was not
feasible to go into as much detail on every point as would have been desirable for a final
publication. In the present writeup it seemed appropriate to follow the dispositions of the talk;
therefore this paper, too, is in many places more sketchy than desirable. It is to be taken only as a
general outline of ideas and of tendencies. A detailed account will be published on another
occasion.
288
and subtle, and therefore much less well understood in detail, than are
artificial automata. Nevertheless, some regularities which we observe in
the organization of the former may be quite instructive in our thinking and
planning of the latter; and conversely, a good deal of our experiences and
difficulties with our artificial automata can be to some extent projected on
our interpretations of natural organisms.
PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS
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 Spring '10
 DanCristianMarinescu
 Operating Systems

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