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Leonardo Reviews 235 reviewers point out, this is the stuff of science-fiction but for the fact that these pronouncements are from the same person who created an impressive array of innovations in optical character -recognition systems, reading machines , speech recognition and musicand voice-synthesis, to cite only a few examples. Kurzweil envisions the silicon devices we will etch (in 3D) in the future, eventually supplanting our poor, carbonbased crania. He posits examples of large, successful enterprises—from the top five major investment firms to Microsoft, Volvo, General Electric and General Motors—using neural nets and evolutionary algorithms to harness “the subtle but profound patterns that exist in chaotic data.” Kurzweil is at his most optimistic in predicting that “we will be building our intelligent machines by breaking complex problems (such as understanding human language) into smaller sub tasks, each with its own selforganizing program.” All this is but a brief prelude to the day when it will be possible, by linking artificial intelligence (AI) and nanotechnology, to scan and replicate human brains so completely within computers, that the resulting “copy” will believe itself to be, in fact, the “original,” and even humans interacting with the newly-created entity will be unable to tell the difference. Splendiferous speciousness? Many of Kurzweil’s extrapolations rely on selective writings of Douglas R. Hofstadter (Godel, Escher, Bach), while ignoring Le Ton beau de Marot—especially concerning the inability of machines to disambiguate language. He speaks of programs such as David Cope’s “Experiments in Musical Intelligence” as the first proof of “machine creativity,” but understates the limitations. Similarly, he talks of AI pioneers Allen Newell and Herb Simon, but remains silent as to the views of their colleague Fredrick Brooks, who opined, well before IBM’s “Deep Blue” defeated chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov, that intelligence-amplified (IA) machines working with humans will always be vastly superior to mere AI (no matter how powerful the computational brute force available). Anticipating skeptical reactions, Kurzweil quotes famous predictions that turned out to be spectacularly wrong, from Lord Kelvin to Alvin Toffler and Robert Metcalfe. He then contrasts those with the past two decades of his own conclusions of what seemed inevitably adumbrative trajectories. Some have criticized the author for including the book’s publication in the time line of major historic developments (spanning from the birth of the universe 10–15 billion years ago to 2099 A.D.). There are numerous web-links given, covering a rich spectrum of diverse perspectives, as well as a supplement entitled “How to Build an Intelligent Machine in Three Easy Paradigms.” Prognostication as a profession is, at best, precarious. If one is lucky enough to predict most things correctly, then plaudits for perspicacity follow, evocative of John Ruskin: “To see clearly is poetry, prophesy and religion—all in one.” Alas, if too great a scope is envisioned , the odds of errors increase. To quote from Cicero addressing the Roman Senate: “It seems to me that no soothsayer should be able to look at another soothsayer without laughing.” We may not need to wait another century to see which verdict will be appropriate. MATERIALS RECEIVED Compact Discs Forgetting and Remembering Robert Paredes. Innova Recordings, St. Paul, MN, U.S.A., 1999. Quake Chris Cutler and Thomas DiMuzio. ReR Records, Surrey, United Kingdom, 1999. The Science Group . . . A Mere Coincidence Chris Cutler, Steven Tickmeyer and Bob Drake. ReR Records, Surrey, United Kingdom, 1999. Schizotrope: The Life and Death of Marie Zorn—North American Tour 1999 Richard Pinhas/Maurice Dantec. Cunieform Records, Silver Springs, MD, U.S.A., 2000. Sonic Circuits VII Various Artists. Innova Recordings, St. Paul, MN, U.S.A., 1999. Suspension and Displacement Djam Karet. Cunieform Records, Silver Springs, MD, U.S.A., 2000. Where Is the Green Parrot? Peter Cusack. ReR Records, Surrey, United Kingdom, 1999. Books Aleksandra Manczak: Memory of Images Exh. cat., Galeria Bielska BWA, Bielsko Biala, Poland, 1999. 79 pp., illus. Paper. ISBN: 8-387-98415-9. Art in Holography 2 Andrew Pepper and Douglas Tyler, eds. Exh. cat./postcard set. Art in Holography, Nottingham, United Kingdom, 1999. Cavernas y Palacios: En Busca de la Conciencia en el Cerebro Diego Golombek. Ada Korn Editores, Buenos Aires...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9282
Print ISSN
0024-094X
Pages
pp. 235-236
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-04
Open Access
No
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