- Series: Helix Books
- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (May 1, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0201406497
- ISBN-13: 978-0201406498
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.8 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 29 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Darwin Among The Machines: The Evolution Of Global Intelligence (Helix Books) 1st Edition
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Here's a mesmerizing account of the evolution of machines and thoughts about machines, woven into a story about the evolution of intelligence. Darwin Among the Machines is not so much about how today's intelligence came to be, but about how it may further develop as humanity and computer grow closer together. George Dyson tells the story largely through stories--both historical and legendary--from the lives of scientists and philosophers who paved the way for today's cybernetics revolution, starting with the 17th-century insights of Thomas Hobbes. This book challenges the assumption that nature and machine are opposing forces. Dyson believes them to be allies.
From Library Journal
Dyson, son of scientist Freeman and brother of computer guru Esther, sees the World Wide Web as a major evolutionary development in the creation of "a globally networked, electronic, sentient being." Using historical fact as well as fiction, he explains how we have arrived at this juncture. He reveals an impressive literary and scientific background as he moves from Thomas Hobbes, Samuel Butler, and Leibniz to Turing, von Neumann, and others. However, it is not always obvious what point he is making, and he finds mythology as useful in explaining this evolution as historical fact. Dyson provides substantial detail about the development of intelligent machines as he traces the history of modern computing from the ballistics computations of the 1940s and 1950s to the SAGE project and other military applications, which had spinoffs and by-products culminating in today's network-based system. Certainly, computer technology is having a revolutionary effect on how we do many things and, in fact, what we do. But whether we are seeing Darwinian evolution among the machines remains unproved to this reviewer. Recommended for larger collections.?Hilary D. Burton, Lawrence Livermore National Lab., Livermore, Cal.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Each chapter takes a single topic and starts back in time when it was the germ of an idea in someone's writings and carries it forward into the 1990's. This is not a technical book nor a book about computer science. It is more about the field of artificial life or perhaps artificial intelligence and brings the threads of evolution, encoding, hardware, software, networking, and other topics under a common theme. I picked it up because of a recent interest in the work of Nils A. Barricelli and was not disappointed in this regarded. I understand the other reviewers that were disappointed in the lack of technical detail, though I really don't think this is the aim of the book.
My one complaint is that Dyson does get his details wrong at times. For example, when discussing Ray's Tierra system he implies that all digital creatures were 80 instructions long, which is not true. This makes me wonder what other details he may have off as well. I read the book as more of a broad swath of history, in which the flow of time and growth of the idea is the focus and theme. The book is extremely well notated and has sparked my interest to look up the original works behind a few areas of discussion. Like many writer's in the 1990s, Dyson expected big results in artificial life over the coming years which did not come to pass. However, as a comprehensive history of the fields behind Alife this is well worth a visit.
A great read while kicking back at the beach.