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Rapture for the Geeks: When AI Outsmarts IQ Hardcover – September 30, 2008
From Publishers Weekly
Novelist and screenwriter Dooling (White Man's Grave) contemplates the Era of Singularity, the coming day when computers will be able to outthink humans, in this uneven take on the future of machine intelligence. Dooling is at his best when he profiles technology's most captivating futurists: Ray Kurzweil, inventor of scanning and text-to-speech technologies, beguiles with his vision of human minds embedded in silicon chips; physicist and science fiction writer Vernor Vinge portrays a bleaker future where humanity serves its hyperintelligent computer overlords. Dooling veers back and forth between celebrating the speed with which technology is evolving and ruing its hidden perils (our fatal flaw... is Promethean fire-stealing, the instinct to always and everywhere overreach), along the way touching upon the computer research, various philosophies of mind and intelligence, and the historical tensions between man and machine. While an engaging writer, Dooling tends to indulge in sarcasm and snarky humor, which trivializes the deeper import of his message: that whether machines ever become self-aware, living minds, we are losing something of what makes us human when we lose control of our own creations and their meaning. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Praise for Richard Dooling:
Rapture for the Geeks
“Nimble and entertaining . . . A fascinating historical review of our longtime obsession with machines.”
—David Takami, Seattle Times
“Surprisingly engrossing, quick-witted.”
—New York Observer
“One doesn’t expect a nonfiction book to be fascinating, chilling, thoughtful, and funny in equal measure. This one is. My question: When computers become smarter than humans, and especially if they take over, will they regard Rick Dooling as dangerous, prescient, sympathetic . . . or irrelevant?”
“Dooling really is onto something here.”–Ars Technica
Bet Your Life
“Manages to invoke Double Indemnity, the Old Testament, and Fountains of Wayne with equal vehemence and thriller wit. . . . If you’re not hooked, you’re one dead mackerel.”
“Fascinating . . . A socially relevant satire [that’s] midway between John Grisham and Carl Hiaasen.”
—The New Yorker
“Brainstorm is simply brilliant—hilarious, thought-provoking, and masterfully crafted. The characters are fantastic and irresistible but completely believable, and their banter is so witty and natural that a reader can forget they are debating ideas at the cutting edge of brain science and philosophy.”
—Steven Pinker, author of How the Mind Works
“Exuberant . . . deeply pleasurable . . . Here is a whodunit that achieves a comic fugue-state mastery of the language of our sexually charged, violent, technocratic society.”
—Colin Harrison, New York Times Book Review
Blue Streak: Swearing, Free Speech and Sexual Harassment
“A charmingly impudent essay on language and sexual politics . . . an extremely clever and creative sort of literary acting out.”
—Richard Bernstein, New York Times
White Man’s Grave
“A bravura display of satire . . . Dooling evokes the humane checks and balances of a deep world: the logic, you might say, of its magic.”
—Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times Book Review
Top customer reviews
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I like that he is a proponent of open software and learning to code, but he throws anti Microsoft references everytime, out if the blue, it is jarring to read.
The rest of the book is either research or appropriations of someone else's experience like the one for WoW.
I really wanted to like this book, but I couldn't.
Bill Yarberry, Houston, Texas
Prior to reading this book, I'd read the wikipedia article discussing the Technological Singularity. It offered a much more concise and technically insightful discussion of this material. I wish I'd saved my money and time, and stopped there, and spent my time reading in-flight magazines instead of trying to get value from this book.
In all a decent intro to the subject though, at least I know what books I want to read now.
Part of the problem is just how confusing and vague all this is. There are web sites galore dedicated to showing how silly predictions from the past now look. "If current trends continue..." is the beginning of many silly and foolish sentences. One of the things most astonishing to me is that a person from the 50s could return to my life and with a few minor adjustments, do just fine. We live in single family houses spaced in about the same way he did. We drive cars to the office, just as he did. We work in an office quite similar to his. We wear clothes he would recognize (though not as appropriate work attire!) and his wardrobe, while possibly looking quaint, would not really stand out. Nor would his haircut, language, or music. Sure, there are computers behind everything, including doorknobs, watches, and toasters, but the basic premises are still the same. The phone has no cord, and can be used anywhere, but if you told him, "Here's how you dial this...and you need 9 numbers now" I think it wouldn't be a problem. Our music comes from a box with platters that go in, rather than on, it or one that has buttons instead of dials. The TV has more choices, but works about the same. You get the idea. Our baseball stadiums, movie theaters, restaurants, traffic lights, grocery stores, and high schools would be far more familiar to Mr. 1959 than his would have been to a transplanted Mr. 1909. Things aren't all that different in many ways. Yet no one in 1959 would have imagined that here in 2009, 8 years AFTER 2001, life would look so similar. Predicting the future is hard!
Another problem is, as touched upon by another reviewer, the lack of a clear definition of what intelligence is. And how it differs from consciousness. A newborn baby, with virtually no knowledge and who-knows-how-much-intelligence, has consciousness, which, I think we'd agree, distinguishes him from a machine. The baby cannot pass the Turing test. Yet he has something the machine does not, and can not, have. A two year old can easily tell the difference between a glass apple and a real one on sight. So, who's more intelligent, the toddler, or a computer, which would have a very hard time distinguishing? Just what does intelligent mean? I don't think I'd ever want a computer to go to the grocery store for me to buy fruit. No matter how "intelligent" it is.
And, it does meander a bit toward the end, where his love and admiration for Open Source options (shared by me) goes on too long. The diatribe against the evil empire, which does stifle and limit and restrict and slow the development of computers however it can, other than where necessary to sell more and more bloated and sluggish Vistas, just isn't integrated as well as it could have been. See paragraph two above...AT&T, GM, US Steel and other huge 1950's corporations are tottering or dead. Microsoft could be in the same boat soon and join Burroughs and Honeywell and DEC in a museum of once massively important concerns.
It is still a fascinating, worthwhile, and informative read. I learned a lot about what some people think the future holds. And I was scared and tickled by what they imagine. The speculations were intriguing, the excerpts well chosen. The Unabomber stuff was riveting. And Rapture for the Geeks was often laugh out loud funny; its EULA worth the price of admission alone. Just a little slight for the momentous topic he has tackled.