I. J. Good

03.05.2015 |

Episode #1 of the course “Significant futurists and their ideas”

I.J. Good was born Isadore Jacob Gudak in London in the early 20th century. He later Anglicized his name and was often called “Jack” by those who knew him personally. From the age of nine, Good exemplified extraordinary mathematical talent; in high school his teachers left him to study on his own in the library, and he completed most of the college syllabus before entering college. Advancing the concepts of statistics and computation, I.J. Good contributed theories essential to much of the technology that is now used around the world every day.

After being an essential member of the famous Bletchley Park decryption team, which included Alan Turing, during World War II, Good taught at the University of Manchester and then Virginia Tech University in the US. He published over three million words throughout his life and was known as an expert in the field of Bayesian statistics in particular. Good developed some of the most practical applications for mathematical computations and helped design the first computer that ran off an internally-stored program. He is perhaps most well-remembered for his theory of the “technological singularity,” which predicts that humans will develop a superhuman technological intelligence.

I.J. Good was a life-long chess player, known as one of the top in the world at the time. He became highly interested in the Chinese game of strategy, Go, and helped popularize it in Europe and the US when he wrote an article about it for New Scientist. A mathematical thinker on every level, Good also had a quirky sense of humor, as evidenced by references to himself in his own publications and his book entitled The Scientist Speculates: An Anthology of Partly-Baked Ideas.


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