Black Versus White Boxes

Gödel's Lost Letter and P=NP


Wilhelm Cauer was a German mathematician and engineer who worked in Gttingen and the US between the two world wars. He is associated with the term “black box,” although he apparently did not use it in his published papers, and others are said to have used it before. What Cauer did do was conceive a computing device based on electrical principles. According to this essay by Hartmut Petzold, Cauer’s device was markedly more advanced and mathematically general than other ‘analog devices’ of the same decades. He returned to Germany in the early 1930’s, stayed despite attention being drawn to some Jewish ancestry, and was killed in the last days of Berlin despite being on the Red Army’s list of scientists whose safety they’d wished to assure.

Today Ken and I wish to talk about black boxes and white boxes, no matter who invented them, and their relation to computing.

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