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The Turing Option (Questar Science Fiction) Mass Market Paperback – October 1, 1993

3.3 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Minsky ( The Society of the Mind ), one of the foremost authorities on artificial intelligence research, has many interesting ideas about the potential and pitfalls of the quest for a truly free-thinking machine, and some of them come through in this murky, creaky thriller, written with veteran science fiction author Harrison ( Return to Eden ). Brian Delany, a brilliant computer scientist at top-secret Megalobe labs, is on the brink of developing a true machine intelligence when industrial pirates penetrate security and steal his research, gravely wounding him in the process. Though a bullet has destroyed parts of his brain, the technology he created offers hope: neurosurgeon Erin Snaresbrook uses microsurgical robots and a superpowerful computer to restore Brian to consciousness. Now he races against time to re-create his research before the thieves can develop it for the marketplace, and to find out who was behind the theft before they can finish him off. The stale, contrived plot and unlikely characters serve only as a framework for the authors' exposition of various issues surrounding AI. Readers interested in a lecture enlivened by a plot line should find this entertaining; those seeking the pleasures of fiction (science or otherwise) should look elsewhere.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Clich‚d, melodramatic, and thuddingly plotted--but, still, this novel by a Grand Old Man of sf and the world's leading expert on artificial intelligence contains some of the best extrapolation on the nature and creation of AI ever offered in fiction. In 2023, Brian Delaney, under contract to Megalobe, has just achieved a breakthrough in AI when someone engineers the theft of his research and murders all involved. Brian alone survives, but a bullet has destroyed much of his brain. Using Brian's own research, neurosurgeon Erin Snaresbrook grafts an advanced computer into his brain, reintegrating neural pathways, allowing access to memories to the age of 14. Brian learns to interface with the CPU, and downloaded databases become part of his memory. While the army keeps him a virtual prisoner for security and searches for the perps, the new, improved Brian creates a new, improved AI, named Sven. Meanwhile, a criminological AI named Dick Tracy begins to uncover clues to the raid and, once integrated with Sven, sports a new product--a robot gardener--that's programmed with Brian's AI code. Brian finds a clue to his would-be murderer's whereabouts in the programming and engineers his and Sven's escape. Travelling to his native Ireland, Brian then discovers that he can interface directly with Sven. Having found the criminal mastermind, he reveals Sven's existence to the world--and goes back to work a free man. While the authors offer a difficult and realistic resolution- -Brian's machine/mind interface makes him progressively less human- -they also remind us that it's the future with lines like: ``Nostalgia music played quietly in the background, ancient classics by the antique old-timers U2.'' -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Questar Science Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 409 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (October 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446364967
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446364966
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 1.1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,088,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Anthony Hinde on May 3, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As far as I know this novel is the only collaboration between Harry Harrison and Marvin Minsky. And given the quality of this book I find that truly sad. Harrison is of course one of the most prolific writers in the field of Science fiction and Minsky is a scientist with MIT, working in the area of A.I., who is more used to writing scientific articles than fiction. The two together bring a great story to life in an extremely believable way.
The "Turing Option" is set in the near future and concentrates on the experiences of a brilliant scientist who has just suffered a major brain trauma. His own cybernetic researches help doctors to bring him back to life and allow him to pursue his murderers. This pursuit leads him back to his research into artificial intelligence which it seems was the motivation behind the first attack.
The plot and story telling, whilst top notch, are not what prompted me to include the book on this page. No, it was the A.I. or M.I. (Machine Intelligence), that I became fascinated with. As far as I am concerned, the concept of a robotic entity has never been explored so well as in this novel. (yes I have read all of Asimov's robot stories). If you are at all interested in this area of science, then this book must be read.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the worst book I have read in a long time. It seems primarilya conduit for the authors' opinions and theories, masked as a hi-techindustrial espionage mystery. The characters seem conceived by adolescents. They are consistently unlikeable, uninteresting, and unchanging, serving primarily to voice arguments that Minsky has only slightly more completely addressed in his previous book, The Society of Mind. The inane and boring plot shows a glimmer of promise at the very end for two reasons: One is a betrayal that is unexpected only because it appears in this otherwise flat book. The other is a one-page encounter with the only character who is even mildly interesting.
The pointed descriptions of everyday use of technology now being researched at the MIT Media Lab is distracting. The authors use grammar that is adulterated by the frequent, jarring, annoying omission of the subjects of sentences, both in the narrative as well as human and robot dialogs. This type of writing has the pretense of revolutionary style, while really exposing a complete lack of expressiveness.
If you want to know Minsky's theories about AI as well as his opinions on a wide range of subjects, you will find The Society of Mind far more thought-provoking and interesting than this book. If you want a simply but clearly articulated vision of the future as suggested by the work at MIT's Media Lab, read Nicholas Negroponte's Being Digital. If you want entertaining and surprising science fiction about robots, read Isaac Asimov's short stories. Read them by the light of a fire, and fuel it with The Turing Option. END
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Format: Hardcover
If you want to explore Minsky's ideas about how intelligence is organized, read his book "The Society of Mind" and save yourself a painful slog through endless horrid characterizations and glaring language errors. I really wanted this to be a good book, but 257 pages in I can't take it any more. The sentence that made me decide that the authors haven't earned another moment of my time: "Instead it shifted its weight to one of the tree complexes and extended the other, then with a quick movement a myriad of the smallest fingers grasped each sheet individually."

I hope I can blame Minsky for this and not Harrison, because my brand new copy of Harrison's "Make Room! Make Room!" is sitting on my desk, next in line.

The flaws in this work are boundless. While in Gibson's seminal cyberpunk trilogy the technology is compelling and advanced to a point just shy of seeming like magic, Minskison's characters are busy having their hair blown back by what are essentially one-gigabyte USB thumb drives. They set their story thirty years out from their date of publication, but the computers of the future are evidently whatever Minsky had on his desk, but model numbers nudged up to seem... futuristic... or something...

I feel bitter and let down by this book. I gave it two stars instead of one because, well... It's not a romance novel. It does regurgitate some potentially interesting points about Minsky's thoughts about AI. It talks about a computer language derived from Lisp, although in nothing like a satisfying depth.

If you want to read something about an emerging AI, read "Exegesis" by Astro Teller. He goes for what Minskison attempts and actually accomplishes it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've almost finished this book and find it interesting but flawed to some degree. I first encountered it way back in 1998, on the Net. The famous MIT computer scientist, Marvin Minsky and some other guy named Harry Harrison had written a draft of a story about a robot intelligence. It was a website with courier text script, and I found it engrossing. Now 13 years later I have the book and I'm a little disappointed. It's in the main cornball detective prose. I was hoping to see an improvement in the writing. But, the tale is really an excuse to lecture us on the state of AI research in 1992. As you might expect the image it gives of 2023 is way off what really developed. It's per-Internet, so some many things that would be in their wonderful future never occurred. At points it's kinda funny. For instance to see them explain a portable device called GRAM that could store up to 1 gig of data, HA! Why any flash drive these days tops that by what 10 or 20 gig. Or how 'bout PCs that faxes data, another giggle. Remember it was written in 1992. But, it's portraying 2023. To be fair, they get it right on a few things. The anticipate cell phones and flat-screen monitors, but because they could not have known about WWW, most of their future world is not ours now just 12 years from 2023.

But, what I most wanted to read about was this robot Robin (which the final version calls Sven)that is learning to be human. That was rich food for investigation and I'm a 100 pages to the end and very little of the bot in it. What a let down. I give it 75 as a score.

One final comment, Minsky wrote the science, the Harrison guy wrote the romance and plot. Minsky you could have done this without him. And the proofreading errors in the copy I have are numerous. At one point the hero of the novel Brian is misspelled as Brain, twice! And it's a published hardcover book no less! you believe that! No best seller here.
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