- Series: MIT Press
- Hardcover: 190 pages
- Publisher: The MIT Press; 1 edition (May 21, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0262062410
- ISBN-13: 978-0262062411
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,502,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Imitation of Life: How Biology Is Inspiring Computing (MIT Press) 1st Edition
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Surveying scientific thinking about a postsilicon era in computing, Forbes homes in on one of the pioneering theorists of the computer, mathematician John von Neumann. In 1948 he lectured on the abstract resemblance of life's biochemical processes to computing. Today, the resemblance is no longer theoretical; Forbes highlights one scientist who has used DNA to compute a mathematical problem. That is one example, Forbes notes, of how biology is affecting computer science. Another influence is metaphorical, as researchers see in life's exquisite operations models to emulate, such that specialties have arisen to develop "evolvable hardware," "evolutionary algorithms," "nanoscale self-assembly," and security systems that mimic nature's immune systems. Touring the state of knowledge, Forbes (who has been associated with the military's technology nursery, DARPA) stakes out this scientific frontier in broad terms. Although the field's inherent complexity will deter casual readers, those with a serious interest will find Forbes an expert guide to the hottest research in a potentially revolutionary area of technology. Gilbert Taylor
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...A whirlwind history, richer even than its subtitle suggests.(Nature)
...Forbes [is] an expert guide to the hottest research in a potentially revolutionary area of technology.(Booklist)
[T]hough the text is clearly written, it offers a lot of technical information. Recommended...(Library Journal)
The analogies between computers and biological organisms have often been overstated, so I approached this book with modest expectations. I was pleased to find that it was often cautious and moderate, even as it described claims enthusiastically promoted by others. Forbes should be congratulated for presenting the case for 'bio-inspired computing' in a way that will make the controversies it evokes accessible to a very broad audience.(Joshua Lederberg, Professor Emeritus, Rockefeller University, 1958 Nobel Laureate in Medicine)
Computer engineering and biology have so much to say to each other; Nancy Forbes catalyzes this conversation and let's us listen in via her engaging style. This book will appeal to technophiles, interdisciplinarians, and broad thinkers of all stripes.(George M. Church, Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School)
How does our brain do such exquisitely complex things with such slow and unreliable components? Are there lessons here for building more capable and robust computers? Nancy Forbes gathers evidence from a wide variety of fields, providing a lively and accessible survey of what we know and don't know about these questions.(Wm. A. Wulf, President, National Academy of Engineering)
Imitation of Life successfully presents the case that for the first time in history, we are able to engineer machines that can both borrow designs from the complexity of life, through computer science, and implement the algorithms of life, through nanotechnology(Stan Williams, Senior Fellow, Hewlett-Packard Laboratories)
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Top customer reviews
I felt the author demonstrated little subject expertise. On page 5 she defines synapses as "the connection points between the dendrites and the axons." That had me running to Wikipedia. In my opinion, the discussion of neural logic here is confusing. I don't think anyone not already familiar with it will understand the model of a neural net she tries to present.
Consider this from a sentence on page 13: "Darwin's theory of natural selection -- a radical departure from currently accepted beliefs ...." Gosh, I though a large body of currently accepted beliefs originated with Darwin. This strikes me as typical of stylistic or logic problems in the writing. In general, I found the writing unenlightened, uninspired, verbose, clumsy, and pedantic.
I didn't read much of this book because I trusted it so little that reading became a chore. It reminded me of when I was a programmer reviewing a draft produced by a technical writer. There the minimal goal was to correct mistakes both detailed and conceptual. I don't have the expertise to do that for Ms. Forbes, or the patience. Doesn't MIT press have editors? Can't they find computer scientists to write a popularization?
I am not an expert in computer science or biology. Beyond the 15 pages of this book I read, the rest may be good. But from what little I did read, I imagined the author as someone who took a few undergraduate biology and computer science courses and decided to do an interdisciplinary senior thesis about biologic-inspired computing. I think she did it without a lot of help from subject experts reviewing the text although she states in the preface that, and I quote, "Contentwise...," [long list of names here] "... were especially helpful ...." Me personally, I didn't find the content wise.
I don't know anything about the academic press, but I'm disappointed that MIT Press published this book. When I arrived at the misspelling "accomodate" on page 15, I declined to read further in a book on computer science that hadn't been spell checked. I would expect better from MIT.
[Because I read so little, I rate it a neutral three stars.]
The author is a gifted technical analyst, working for Government Agencies. The text teaches what is the "bio-inspired" computation in high level research at universities and research agencies
As commercial software coverage, the mention of RSA In. for encription software, IBM and SAP DNA algorithms
One of the most stringent needs is to apply learning algorithms in Enterprise Computing. Huge data centers must have policies decided by humans, designed for autonomic self-healing.
The theory of change management claims new idea in business - enterprise software is nothing but a reflection of the business idea - is a seed that must grow naturally.
The use of bio-inspired , self-evolutionary software code would be not only a great fit, but a commercial success. The market for such software is every business that operates a data center and/or a compute grid.
As I work in creating enterprise software products, I bought the book with great expectations. This explains my probably biased disappontment with an otherwise a good book that opens the gates of new possibilities.
There is an Enterprise Biology Software Project ongoing [...] . It's mere existence and name illustrates the need described in this review.