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

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

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

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. “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.”

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

15. “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.”

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

17. “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.”

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

19. “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.”

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

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. “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.”

25. “Can we survive technology?”

26. “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.”

27. “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.”

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

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

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

31. “Natura non facis Saltus.”

32. “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.”

33. “The sciences do not try to explain, they hardly even try to interpret, they mainly make models. By a model is meant a mathematical construct which, with the addition of certain verbal interpretations, describes observed phenomena. The justification of such a mathematical construct is solely and precisely that it is expected to work.”

We hope you enjoyed our collection of 30 John von Neumann Quotes.

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