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.
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 TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved