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The Intelligent Universe: AI, ET, and the Emerging Mind of the Cosmos Hardcover – February 15, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Physicist and author Gardner expands on the themes of his 2003 title Biocosm, incorporating concepts of artificial intelligence, non-biological life and the possibility of extra-terrestrial intelligence. It is helpful, but not necessary, to have read Biocosm, as Gardner does provide a recap on his way to proposing that the universe itself is a form of life and that advanced artificial intelligence might be able to create more universes capable of developing more life. Gardner's highly speculative propositions are presented in a passably written narrative, and he incorporates well-documented material from a wide range of past and contemporary thinkers, including Kurzweil, Bedau, Vinge, Penrose, Gould and Dawkins. Unfortunately, he makes the same mistake for which he criticizes others-assuming that because a given phenomena is not understood or observed at present, it never will be, thus justifying outrageous speculation or quasi-religious reasoning. In addition, Gardner ignores decades of research in chemosynthesis and abiogenesis, his understanding of evolutionary processes seems superficial and his knowledge of chemistry (including the chemical characteristics of elements) is clearly limited. As such, he mistakenly suggests, repeatedly, that well-understood processes are in fact scientific mysteries. For those interested in the cutting edge of contemporary physics (and its attending philosophy), Gardner's book is helpful; nevertheless, a healthy skepticism is highly recommended.
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"If you enjoy engaging with big "what if" questions, then you'll no doubt get a kick out of The Intelligent Universe." -- Scienceagogo.com
Top customer reviews
I consider this one of the most profound books I have ever read about the most important scientific/philosophical conjectures. What made this book so enjoyable was the author's writing style, his choice of words were succinct and added to the profundity of his thoughts, reading it made me feel more intelligent. If I were to have read this book in my 20's I think I would have decided to become a cosmologist.
I have to agree with the first reviewers extensive arguments that this book lacks what it could have had, more depth and more logical prove and disprove of competing and/or similar ideas.
Gardner endlessly refers to other scholars and either uses them, without much in-depth explanation or logic, to bolster his idea or puts them in the other camp which is not congruent with his ideas. All mostly without thorough analysis or explanation of why that theory might or might not fit in his biocosm theory.
This makes his arguments soft at best and not very convincing for anyone who know a little about all the work he quotes from and is willing to ponder the questions Gardner rightly asks.
So I think it's a shame that he didn't seize the opportunity with this book to actually make a serious step towards strengthening his theory, which I think should be given serious thought.
I cannot help myself but make one specific remark about the multiverse and weak anthropic principle. The core of those ideas is that through a form of inflation (or other process if you will), our universe is but one of an infinite amount that has been spawning, is spawning and will be spawning universes. If you accept that theory (and I'm not saying you should) then the minute chance of having a universe that is life-friendly (the 1 in 10^500 mentioned by string physicists) translates not only is a certainty but even into an infinite amount of universes that are life-friendly. Without the need for any other assumption.
Somehow Gardner seems to forget or intentionally ignores this simple logic and thereby drops e multiverse/weak anthropic principle unjustly.
the only drawback was that it is written in a very difficult English for me.
if my English was good enough i would have rated it 5 stars.
Perhaps as important as anything, I found that Mr. Gardner has a profound gift for putting into word, extremely complex ideas that even a layman like myself, can in general follow. I found his thought process regarding ETI and religion to be realistic and his hypothesis of the Selfish Biocosm to be both stimulating and invigerating, though for me, it did sort of go off the deep end at some point.
My one disappointment was that he, like every other author I have read on the subject, failed even to conjecture on the basic question (last paragraph of page 170), where did all of these things come from in the first place. That's the question I'm waiting for someone to step up to the plate on. Sure, he/she's bound to strike out, but are we to simply ignore what I consider to be the major question. Not why is the universe so human friendly, but where did the the flint and steel used to ignite the Big Bang come from in the first place.
Most recent customer reviews
is a great thinker who can also write well.Read more