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Pulse: The Coming Age of Systems and Machines Inspired by Living Things Hardcover – April 4, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (April 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374113270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374113278
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.4 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #794,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The computer HAL in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey is infamous for its dispassion, but former Audubon contributing editor Frenay tells readers that computers with emotions will arrive sooner than we may feel comfortable with. In this wide-ranging look at how biology and technology are being integrated in almost every area of human invention, Frenay writes of virtual communities and societies that are springing up online, some with economic systems that mimic those of the real world. Scientists have already created virtual life forms that have developed "sex" all by themselves and are exhibiting evolutionary traits. In the book's most original chapter, the author explains why some economists even advocate using biological metaphors to explain adaptive behaviors in our sophisticated interest rate–based economies. Occasionally the author throws his net rather wide, scooping up more topics than he can discuss adequately, and some of this material has been addressed better by other writers. Still, readers well versed in science who want to avoid future shock will encounter unusual matters on the frontiers of science that may be coming soon to a computer, merchant or medical facility near you. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In journalistic fashion, Frenay refracts what environmentally aware scientists, farmers, and economists are saying about technologies, markets, and the biosphere. Distilling their viewpoints, Frenay expounds on developments that take into account the environmental costs of industrialism and overpopulation. The array of material--artificial intelligence, organic farming, and more--tends to fragment the narrative. But the constant changes in topic will give readers interested in practical over ideological environmentalism a survey of what's happening greenwise across the board. Frenay sustains a metaphor that devices, companies, and economies will perform better if they behave like organisms and ecosystems in the biosphere, that is, as decentralized, open systems balancing flows of energy and matter. The "new biology" Frenay touts promises the technological mimicry of living things rather than machine-age mastery of them. His optimism, however, stands in contrast to his indignant pessimism about corporate business practices. A smorgasbord de luxe, Frenay's reportage is sustaining fare for environmentalists. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Lyle Jones on May 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Frenay is an excellent writer when it comes to his coverage of technology and his linking of the philosophy behind complexity to other fields, but he takes a polemic view of politics devoting nearly 300 pages to far leftist rhetoric that isn't popular even in Europe. This book would have been better marketed as a treatise on politics and also Frenay would have been better recommending the anti-wto, anti-corporate, media which he heavily qoutes from than trying to summarize and paraphrase it. The first 150 pages are nice and some of the better tech reporting I can think of, the rest is interspersed with good ideas, but depicted in skewed arguements with few accurate summaries of the opposition and often a looping repetitive prose that seems more like an attempt of the author to convince himself of the validity of his views than a proper arguement. Frenay quite rightly notes the WTO's rules are universal and including human and environmental rights would mean everyone would be on the same playing field and the world shouldering environmental and moral costs they'd probably be more than happy to pay also seems like a good idea along with many of Frenay's numerous political points, however he then goes on to espouse Europe as a norm to emulate and while Europe has high GDPs and Denmark is very environmental, it's important to remember many of the problems Frenay is rallying against affect European business and society too, while most American businesses obey UN human rights charters for instance, Ikea has refuysed all human rights inspections, etc. It's not a balanced arguement, but it catches many of the world's major problems quite easily.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Dobelli HALL OF FAME on July 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This sprawling and fascinating book explores biology, technology, agriculture, neurology and economics, among other disciplines. It contends that systems and ways of thinking based on the machine age must and will change in light of new discoveries in biology. Robert Frenay provides prodigious research and some impressive reporting. One caveat: His discussion of economics and the monetary system seems to be based on somewhat arguable information about the workings of the Federal Reserve and the Eurodollar market. The author's passion for the subject of biology is clear, and we find that much of what he says is interesting. The book is not so much a narrative as a catalogue of facts, experiments and initiatives in various fields, with an accompanying argument against today's corporations and monetary systems that will challenge executives and economists.
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By RJB on September 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I recommend this book to anyone who is wondering what guidance we can follow to position humanity for the future. Nanotechnology and Moore's law are accelerating development cycles and each successive decision we make as a species becomes more important. Synchronising teechnolgy with the tried and true systems of nature results in more efficient systems (ant food search algorithms for networks, fibonacci spirals for design)and results in better harmony for our planet.

The one big revelation I had while reading this book was the understanding that our econmic system, based on banks loaning money at compounding interest rates, volates the laws of nature. The Second law of thermodnnamics, as Frenay points out, dictates that energy dissipates when it is transferred from one physical system to another. Bank and credit loans defy this law, resulting in the boom and bust cycles we see in our economies today. His recommendation that we revert to barter systems was incredibly thought provoking.
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Format: Hardcover
Can genes challenge machines? Author Robert Frenay is a former contributing editor of Audubon magazine and in PULSE: THE COMING OF AGE OF SYSTEMS AND MACHINES INSPIRED BY LIVING THINGS, he charts the shift from machines to biology bolstered by computers: a type of 'new biology' in which human systems and machines meld to form new possibilities. From robotics to materials science he considers industrial ecosystems in which waste products from manufacturing become the new materials for another endeavor, considering the changing relationships between mechanism and biology in the process. Supporting these observations and contentions is a history of such relationships and their changes, areas in which biology can be seen at work, interviews with scientists and researchers, and observations of mechanisms actually produced which support his positive visions of future industrial endeavors. His single idea comes from a researcher's perspective and reflects on the cultural philosophy and pressures shaping technological change.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Park Jinho on January 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
more exhaustive and more exciting read than any book on the subject of biology and complexity. esp, it can play a role of a guide for those who are seriously interested in those subjects. also, it shed an insight on what'll be the next new tool for advancing the knowledge in a variety of academic disciplines.
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