Darwin Among The Machines: The Evolution Of Global Intelligence (Helix Books) Paperback – 8 Oct 1998
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"In the game of life and evolution, there are three players at the table: human beings, nature and machine. I am firmly on the side of nature," writes George Dyson, "but nature, I suspect, is on the side of machines." In his challenging book, Dyson surrounds contemporary topics related to emerging information networks with historical context, illustrating an evolutionary dance between intelligence, nature and machines. Taking its title from an essay written by Samuel Butler in 1863, Dyson's story blends the antiquarian thinking of Thomas Hobbes, Erasmus Darwin and Gottfried Leibniz with modern research on neural networks and artificial intelligence. Dyson's perspective is unique and his style is deft, ensuring the readability of Darwin among the Machines: The Evolution of Global Intelligence. --Amazon.com --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
"An extraordinarily exciting, intriguing and very idiosyncratic book. ...An almost perfect example of the effective literary treatment of scientific subjects.""Los Angeles"" Times""An original, creative work of intellectual history." "Newsweek""A cogent, succinct history of thinkers and thinking that paved the way, occasionally unwittingly, to today's technology."
An extraordinarily exciting, intriguing and very idiosyncratic book.... An almost perfect example of the effective literary treatment of scientific subjects.
"Los Angeles Times"
An original, creative work of intellectual history.
A cogent, succinct history of thinkers and thinking that paved the way, occasionally unwittingly, to today s technology.
-An extraordinarily exciting, intriguing and very idiosyncratic book.... An almost perfect example of the effective literary treatment of scientific subjects.-
Los Angeles Times
-An original, creative work of intellectual history.-
-A cogent, succinct history of thinkers and thinking that paved the way, occasionally unwittingly, to today's technology.-
"An extraordinarily exciting, intriguing and very idiosyncratic book.... An almost perfect example of the effective literary treatment of scientific subjects."
"An original, creative work of intellectual history." Newsweek
"A cogent, succinct history of thinkers and thinking that paved the way, occasionally unwittingly, to today's technology."
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition. See all Product description
Top customer reviews
The Chapter on Butler is worth the price of the book. Readers will also encounter many obscure names brought alive with interesting detail and then fit into the evolution of a familiar technology. For example, Dyson explains how wooden tally sticks, used as a primitive, secure means of record keeping in the English (twelfth century) pre-history of banking, both facilitated the establishment of a banking system and served as an early precursor and model for encryption keys.
Familiar, iconographic names, Charles Babbage and John Von Neuman, to name just two examples, are shown in somewhat different, and more human, light than they are usually presented. Babbage, for example, was a prophet of telecommunications whose early ideas for what we now call packet switching revolutionized the British mail system. Babbage analyzed the operations of the British postal system and found that its costs were governed more by switching than by distance. His recommendaton of a flat rate service was introduced in 1840 as the penny post. Von Neuman's influence is described in detail in many places, for his contributions to mathematics, game theory, computing, the Cold War defense system, and the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton.
Students looking for a concise description of the history of "distributed communication" (most familiarly now the Internet) will also find a great and amusing chapter in this book. Dyson has written a remarkably compact description of how the issues and concerns of the defense establishment encouraged the creation of what we now know as the Internet.
The boundlessness of the book, its avoidance of the shelter of one or a few strict disciplines, is among its greatest attractions. If anyone ever asks you what a liberal arts education is, point them to this book. There is no better book on how ideas live and grow across generations.
Darwin Among the Machines is science writing, intellectual history, personal essay, and more.
It is a book about the future, done by studying the work of the past and in this respect is unique. I found it amazing the number of people who had made predictions about artificial intelligence in the 1800's and, in many cases, the breadth of their achievements in so many different fields. If for nothing else there are some excellent quotes in this book which I'm sure will be appearing on web sites, papers, and books in the future.
No work in the field of AI, ALife, or other related subjects should be attempted without first reading this book to discover who's shoulders you're standing on...
There are some very imaginative pictures.The juxtaposition for instance of the development of computers and the changes in banking and finance;the growth of artificial intelligence and methods of war;the struggle to create artificial and autonomous intelligence and to create life;or the meaning of intelligence (and of meaning itself) with the evolution of music.Quite a feast! Scintillating and illuminating,showing a kind of movement within the substructure of human consciousness.
But something is also frustrating.
Over and over again one is brought up again the question "What then is intelligence"?
The question comes up in every chapter and the frustration is that this question is really one of philosophy.
Every chapter ends in a kind of either /or,a limbo in which the question whether ordered fragments,electrical,genetic,atomic or merely mechanical can in some way become autonomous and self reproducing and replicating;and whether ,if they do that constitutes a new 'life' form which will share the planet with people .Whether that would be MIND itself.
But not once does Dyson grasp the idea of" Wholeness" as for example explained in David Bohm's work.
That wholeness comes FIRST and constitutes what we call an "idea "and the ordered fragments are the results of the loss of wholeness of the idea is not once mentioned.
So the book dazzles and leaves you breathless but unsatisfied. But if you can supply the missing key ,then the book makes many illuminating links and connections and it's follow up should be interesting.
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