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Mind Matters: Exploring the World of Artificial Intelligence

Mind Matters: Exploring the World of Artificial Intelligence

by James P. Hogan
When World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov lost the now-famous rematch against IBM's chess-playing computer Deep Blue last year, millions were riveted. When NASA mounted its historic mission to Mars, the world watched spellbound as a sophisticated mechanical device rolled across the surface of the red planet, taking photographs and analyzing rock samples. Consequently,


When World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov lost the now-famous rematch against IBM's chess-playing computer Deep Blue last year, millions were riveted. When NASA mounted its historic mission to Mars, the world watched spellbound as a sophisticated mechanical device rolled across the surface of the red planet, taking photographs and analyzing rock samples. Consequently, these events stirred renewed speculation about one of modern science's most fascinating, and haunting, pursuits—the creation of a machine with a mind.

While the likes of HAL, the sentient, conversant computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the android "replicants" of Blade Runner have mainly kept Artificial Intelligence a purely science-fictional concept in the public eye, the quest to synthesize thought has been very much a reality for decades—and not without striking successes. From the pioneering experiments in "cybernetics" of the 1940s to the digital computers and robot prototypes developed by Carnegie Mellon University and MIT researchers to Deep Blue, and on to the most current projects involving humanoid robotics and attempts to duplicate the evolution of intelligence, Mind Matters chronicles the extraordinary journey toward a scientific breakthrough that could well overshadow man's conquest of space.

Whether such a breakthrough is even possible, and what the implications—social, economic, political—for humankind will be if it is, makes Mind Matters the scientifically and philosophically provocative read of the year. Guided by the intimate knowledge, insight, and thoughtful wit of author James P. Hogan, both the technophile and technophobe alike will find themselvesenthralled by the history and mystery of man's ultimate interaction with machine.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When IBM's Deep Blue defeated World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov last spring, nearly every popular book on the subject of artificial intelligence went out of date. Though the good ones had predicted that specialized silicon brains would soon outdo the best human brains on the game's 8x8 black-and-white battlefield, none could say for certain when that day would come. This expert report from Hogan, a digital systems engineer turned full-time writer, primarily of SF (Bug Park, 1997, etc.), doesn't either, but it's clear from Hogan's book, written before the match, that the computer's ascendancy in chess was only a matter of time, and not much time. Carefully organized to carry the reader from the earliest attempts to understand the mind to current technologies designed to model logical thought and the behavior of that system of interconnected neurons in electrochemical soup we call the brain, this book is comprehensive, timely and accessible. It is also entertaining, with amusing chapter titles like "Occam's Chain Saw" and clever section headings like "What's Induction? Let Me Give You a Few Examples." Toward the end, a speculative discussion of genetic programming concludes: "[B]y that time, we would have turned to similar methods to give it a supporting hardware system that could grow itself through applied genetic engineering. Maybe we could call it a Biologically Reproduced Artificial INtelligence." No computer program could ever be creative enough to come up with that acronym. Or might one? Stay tuned. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Joining a legion of volumes on artificial intelligence (AI), this sweeping, readable work by a British engineer and sales consultant for DEC, the computer maker, explores the remarkable, though often enigmatic, world of AI. Beginning with what he calls Aristotle's legacy, Hogan proceeds with a long, thoughtful survey of a vast, sometimes dry field, covering theories of knowledge, reasoning methods and modes, number theory and other aspects of mathematics, and cybernetics. This review segues into another one on the history and progress of AI, beginning with the first AI program, the "British Museum Algorithm," which handles logic theorems. From there it moves through AI as it relates to game theory (including chess, checkers, and tank warfare), educating toddlers, robots, speech recognition and sentence parsing, and learning theories. The brighter side of AI, Hogan boldly predicts, will produce "worlds of universal leisure and affluence, with automated subterranean and off-planet manufacturing complexes churning out unlimited quantities of everything and life filled with opportunities of every description, enriched by machines serving as intelligent tutors, mentors, and companions." A thought-provoking volume; recommended for academic and large public libraries.Robert C. Ballou, Atlanta
Kirkus Reviews
A survey of the current state of computer intelligence research, from a science-fiction writer (The Immortality Option, 1995, etc.) whose novels have often dealt with the subject. Hogan illustrates the possible future of artificial intelligence by sketching several blue-sky scenarios, ranging from a "smart" auto that can find its destination without human guidance to self-replicating robots that incorporate design improvements in newer models and thus display a sort of "evolution." He then turns to history to show the foundations of the concept, from mechanistic Aristotelian logic to the Turing Test. But, of course, the major advancements have taken place over the last three decades, with the development of increasingly subtle and versatile programming languages and machines capable of high-speed performance. A benchmark event in this story, at least to the general public, was the defeat of world chess champion Gary Kasparov by Deep Blue, an IBM computer optimized for chess-playing. Hogan examines in some detail the history of chess programs, with sample games from several systems pitted against human masters. Other chapters examine three-dimensional model-building, attempts to understand natural languages, and similar advanced applications of AI research. Hogan takes time to consider the criticisms of such skeptics as Roger Penrose, then calls on his science-fictional predictive credentials to take a look into the possible future of the discipline. There are already plenty of areas where a decent home computer can outperform human experts in a given field, as in number-crunching or database management. Other areas will most likely remain human preserves for many decades to come,although even the most optimistic researchers are cautious about predicting that robots will ever replace the human brain as the primary vehicles for understanding and interpreting the universe. Plentiful diagrams and practical examples give the nontechnical reader an insight into Hogan's often complex arguments, but the computer-literate are the most natural audience for this challenging exploration.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.47(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.35(d)

Read an Excerpt

You're feeling refreshed and looking forward to dinner with your friends by
the time you arrive at the restaurant. The car's built-in chauffeur
brought you to the door using its onboard database, checking along the way
with the city traffic net for changing conditions. It's a smooth and
relaxed driver, easy on passengers' nerves. Constantly communicating with
the other vehicles around it, it never has to hit the brakes for a short
stop or sudden lane-jumper, won't misread the speed of oncoming traffic at
an intersection, and doesn't get walled off from turn lanes or exit ramps.
It ferries the children where they need to go, talks to satellites if it
needs directions, and takes itself to the shop when service is due. When
it drops you off, you tell it to go and find a parking spot and come back
at nine. It reminds you that you have a package to be collected from a
store just a mile away and asks if you'd like it picked up while the car
has some free time.

The vice president in charge of legal affairs at Trans Global Airlines is
puzzled. At the last operational management meeting, a report concerning
an outbreak of a strange form of neck rash among some of the company's
flight attendants was flagged for priority action, but the preliminary
checks run by the medical people have thrown up nothing. The rash takes a
distinctive bright-red form with mild soreness and itching, yet none of the
standard records describe anything resembling it. The curious thing is
that the victims are all New York-, Washington-, San Francisco-, or Los
Angeles-based, which at first suggested something infectious beingcarried
around the country, originating at one of those locations. This now seems
unlikely since a general spread would be predicted, but nothing has been
observed at any of the intermediate hubs. Dietary contamination seems
unlikely since only flight-crew members are affected, while the absence of
anything comparable among passengers or other members of the general public
seems to rule out local geographical or environmental factors. Baffled,
the VP and the medical director consult once more with the corporation's
Integrated Information Manager (I2M) via a terminal in the legal
department's offices. The only fact that the system finds to remark upon
that didn't seem worth mentioning before is that the rashes all occurred on
the left side of the neck. Is there any reason why that might be
significant? Neither of the executives can think of one. I2M ruminates
some more and then comes across an obscure item in FAA regulations that
shows a correlation: an extra set of safety rules applied to all the flight
numbers that the affected cabin crew members were working on. Could that
be significant? The medical director shakes his head and seems a trifle
impatient. Rashes don't have anything to do with safety rules. The VP,
however, is curious and asks what was different about those flights. The
machine thinks about it, studies the destinations, and notes among other
things that the routes, to some degree at least, all lay over water. And
the mystery is soon solved. For flights over extended stretches of water,
the safety demonstration included putting on inflatable life jackets. The
life-jacket manufacturer had recently changed to a new type of red ink for
the stenciled markers, and the ink was failing to cure properly. The
itching and soreness the victims experienced were from the scratching
induced in response to the tacky ink.

To the robot spacecraft approaching from space, the asteroid--one of the
countless minor planets circling the sun in a belt between the orbits of
Mars and Jupiter--looks somewhat like an elongated, lumpy potato. Seventy
miles long and thirty or so across the middle, it's of a type known as
"carbonaceous chrondites," which means that in addition to rocky minerals
and metals it also contains ice and about 5 percent of a tarry hydrocarbon
substance called kerogen. Kerogen, sometimes described as "condensed
primeval soup," is formed from elements such as carbon that places like the
moon lack, and forms the basis of organic compounds. Five percent may not
sound like a lot, but it still works out at a cool 50 billion tons, or
somewhere around three hundred times the annual production of organic
chemicals in the United States. The craft lands and disembarks a crew of
tracked, legged, and wheeled surveyor and mining robots that spread out
across the surface and commence delivering ores and other materials back to
the central site, where other machines have begun the construction of a
nuclear-fusion-powered materials extraction and processing plant. A
parts-making facility is added next, followed by a parts-assembly facility,
and stage by stage the plant grows itself into a fully equipped
general-purpose factory complete with its own control computers carrying
programs copied from the ship. The factory then starts making more robots.
When a critical size is reached, a mixed robot workforce detaches itself
from the main center of activity and migrates a short distance across the
surface to build a second factory, a replica of the first. Third- and
fourth-generation factories soon follow. When each has spawned its
assigned number of descendant factories, it stops reproducing and switches
to a production mode, producing and stockpiling materials and products for
eventual shipment to Earth or other parts of the solar system. In time,
this self-replicating pattern will spread to transform the entire asteroid
surface--about equal in size to the state of Massachusetts--into a totally
automated manufacturing complex dedicated to supplying humanity's expanding
civilization from local resources. In a sense, the asteroid could be
thought of as being consumed by mechanical, remote-directed digestive
enzymes sent out from three-hundred-million-mile-distant Earth.

Meet the Author

James P. Hogan was born in London in 1941 and educated at the Cardinal Vaughan Grammar School, Kensington. He studied general engineering at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, subsequently specializing in electronics and digital systems. In mid-1977 he moved from England to the United States to become a Senior Sales Training Consultant, concentrating on the application of minicomputers in science and research, for DEC. At the end of 1979, Hogan opted to write full time.

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