Talking Nets

Talking Nets

An Oral History of Neural Networks

Edited by James A. Anderson and Edward Rosenfeld

Surprising tales from the scientists who first learned how to use computers to understand the workings of the human brain.

A Bradford Book





Surprising tales from the scientists who first learned how to use computers to understand the workings of the human brain.

Since World War II, a group of scientists has been attempting to understand the human nervous system and to build computer systems that emulate the brain's abilities. Many of the early workers in this field of neural networks came from cybernetics; others came from neuroscience, physics, electrical engineering, mathematics, psychology, even economics. In this collection of interviews, those who helped to shape the field share their childhood memories, their influences, how they became interested in neural networks, and what they see as its future.

The subjects tell stories that have been told, referred to, whispered about, and imagined throughout the history of the field. Together, the interviews form a Rashomon-like web of reality. Some of the mythic people responsible for the foundations of modern brain theory and cybernetics, such as Norbert Wiener, Warren McCulloch, and Frank Rosenblatt, appear prominently in the recollections. The interviewees agree about some things and disagree about more. Together, they tell the story of how science is actually done, including the false starts, and the Darwinian struggle for jobs, resources, and reputation. Although some of the interviews contain technical material, there is no actual mathematics in the book.

ContributorsJames A. Anderson, Michael Arbib, Gail Carpenter, Leon Cooper, Jack Cowan, Walter Freeman, Stephen Grossberg, Robert Hecht-Neilsen, Geoffrey Hinton, Teuvo Kohonen, Bart Kosko, Jerome Lettvin, Carver Mead, David Rumelhart, Terry Sejnowski, Paul Werbos, Bernard Widrow


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262011679 448 pp. | 7 in x 9.9 in


$40.00 X ISBN: 9780262511117 448 pp. | 7 in x 9.9 in


James A. Anderson

James A. Anderson is Professor in the Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences at Brown University.

Edward Rosenfeld

Edward Rosenfeld is editor and publisher of the newsletter Intelligence.


  • The interviews in Talking Nets provide a fascinating cross-selection of the scientific history of the neural modeling field's adolescence through the eyes of some of its major contributors. Artificial and biological neural modelers will gain insights into the field's origins. Graduate students, as well as more senior researchers, will find Talking Nets to be not onlu instructive but inspiring. Scientific historians and laypersons will discover a persoal, humanistic (and realisitic) view of how scientist think, work, communicate and live.

    Richard Golden, Associate Professor of Cognitive Science, University of Texas at Dallas

  • Talking Nets is a fascinating book...Anyone with a serious—or even half-serious—interest in neural networks, or in the history of AI or cognitive science, should read Talking Nets.

    Margaret A. Boden

    Times Literary Supplement

  • A fascinating compilation of discussions with many of the pioneers in neurocomputing. This book will certainly help fill in the motivations and historical context surrounding many of the fundamental breakthroughs in the area.

    James L. McClelland

    Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition