1. “Young man, in mathematics you don’t understand things. You just get used to them.”

— John von Neumann

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2. “If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is.”

3. “Computers are like humans – they do everything except think.”

4. “Truth is much too complicated to allow anything but approximations.”

5. “You insist that there is something a machine cannot do. If you tell me precisely what it is a machine cannot do, then I can always make a machine which will do just that.”

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6. “With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.”

7. “There’s no sense in being precise when you don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

8. “When we talk mathematics, we may be discussing a secondary language built on the primary language of the nervous system.”

9. “All stable processes we shall predict. All unstable processes we shall control.”

10. “There probably is a God. Many things are easier to explain if there is than if there isn’t.”

11. “It is just as foolish to complain that people are selfish and treacherous as it is to complain that the magnetic field does not increase unless the electric field has a curl. Both are laws of nature.”

12. “Technological possibilities are irresistible to man. If man can go to the moon, he will. If he can control the climate, he will.”

13. “You don’t have to be responsible for the world that you’re in.”

14. “I am thinking about something much more important than bombs. I am thinking about computers.”

15. “Science, as well as technology, will in the near and in the farther future increasingly turn from problems of intensity, substance, and energy, to problems of structure, organization, information, and control.”

16. “Anyone who attempts to generate random numbers by deterministic means is, of course, living in a state of sin.”

17. “I would like to make a confession which may seem immoral: I do not believe in Hilbert space anymore.”

18. “The total subject of mathematics is clearly too broad for any of us. I do not think that any mathematician since Gauss has covered it uniformly and fully; even Hilbert did not and all of us are of considerably lesser width quite apart from the question of depth than Hilbert.”

19. “You wake me up early in the morning to tell me I am right? Please wait until I am wrong.”

20. “The emphasis on mathematical methods seems to be shifted more towards combinatorics and set theory – and away from the algorithm of differential equations which dominates mathematical physics.”

21. “Life is a process which may be abstracted from other media.”

22. “If one has really technically penetrated a subject, things that previously seemed in complete contrast, might be purely mathematical transformations of each other.”

23. “Neumann, to a physicist seeking help with a difficult problem: Simple. This can be solved by using the method of characteristics. Physicist: I’m afraid I don’t understand the method of characteristics. Neumann: In mathematics you don’t understand things. You just get used to them.”

24. “Can we survive technology?”

25. “The most vitally characteristic fact about mathematics is, in my opinion, its quite peculiar relationship to the natural sciences, or more generally, to any science which interprets experience on a higher than purely descriptive level.”

26. “A large part of mathematics which becomes useful developed with absolutely no desire to be useful, and in a situation where nobody could possibly know in what area it would become useful; and there were no general indications that it ever would be so.”

27. “An element which stimulates itself will hold a stimulus indefinitely.”

28. “It is only proper to realize that language is largely a historical accident.”

29. “In any conceivable method ever invented by man, an automaton which produces an object by copying a pattern, will go first from the pattern to a description to the object. It first abstracts what the thing is like, and then carries it out. It’s therefore simpler not to extract from a real object its definition, but to start from the definition.”

30. “In this sense, an object is of the highest degree of complexity if it can do very difficult and involved things.”

31. “A system of logical instructions that an automaton can carry out and which causes the automaton to perform some organized task is called a code.”

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