The Genie in the Machine: How Computer-Automated Inventing Is Revolutionizing Law and Business

The Genie in the Machine: How Computer-Automated Inventing Is Revolutionizing Law and Business

by Robert Plotkin
     
 

We have long considered inventing to be a uniquely human activity. But just as the assembly line automated the process of manufacturing, today's computers are automating the process of inventing. Software can automatically generate designs for everything from toothbrushes to antennas to automobile frames more quickly and inexpensively than ever before, thereby

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Overview

We have long considered inventing to be a uniquely human activity. But just as the assembly line automated the process of manufacturing, today's computers are automating the process of inventing. Software can automatically generate designs for everything from toothbrushes to antennas to automobile frames more quickly and inexpensively than ever before, thereby ushering in a new era of artificial invention.

Inventors will use artificial invention technology to boost their inventive abilities to previously undreamed-of heights, enabling small teams of inventors to compete with mega-corporations who insist on inventing the old-fashioned way. Even consumers will be able to use artificial invention technology to become inventors themselves. We stand poised to see the emergence of the "digital renaissance artisan"—a person who will have the ability to not only design new inventions at the touch of a button, but also to manufacture them automatically from the comfort of home. As Robert Plotkin reveals in this landmark book, our decisions about these inventions today will dictate who gets to control this powerful technology tomorrow.

Should inventions designed by software be patentable? Should the software that produces those designs be patentable? The Genie in the Machine offers the first-ever examination of the implications of artificial invention technology for patent law, the law of invention. Along with practical advice for inventors, high-tech companies, and patent lawyers, this forward-looking book provides concrete recommendations for reforming patent law in light of the growing importance of invention-automation technology.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Plotkin's book demonstrates that computer-automated inventing is not an academic curiosity or fad, but rather a new way of inventing that will dominate the 21st Century and change how we invent—and how we think about inventing—forever."
—John Koza, Consulting Professor, Stanford University

"In this provocative and important book, Robert Plotkin offers a fascinating look at the future of invention. The Genie in the Machine belongs on every innovator's bookshelf." —Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind

"We've entered the Artificial Invention Age, where programs can automatically synthesize new product designs given only a description of what's required. What's the invention here? Is it the new design? The program? The requirements? And which of these should be patentable? The Genie in the Machine lays out the choices for patent and invention policy with compelling clarity. It's an essential roadmap for anyone concerned with the future of innovation." —Hal Abelson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Publishers Weekly
Sure, MIT's new Jeopardy-playing computer just got challenged by Ken Jennings, the quiz-show's Kasparov, but could a computer surpass Edison at invention? As tech-centric patent lawyer Plotkin explains, computers have already developed a revolutionary toothbrush and radio antennae, and in some ways are better suited to invention. Able to conceive of and abandon ideas without biases, and with greater speed and range, they would likely have saved Edison's lightbulb about 10,000 failed attempts. With the rise of invention-assisting computer programs he calls "genies," Plotkin predicts a "digital renaissance," provided patent law doesn't stunt its progress; to compare, he considers how the Internet might have been hobbled by restricting tools like HTML and Java. Plotkin argues that genies should be open platforms, free for anyone to use, and that the commands used to create parameters for the end-product ("wishes") should be patentable (despite potential grumbling from programmers and big business). At times, Plotkin overindulges in pedantic language and tangents (like the prehistory of genies), at the expense of compelling topics like, for instance, how genies work, or the underlying principles of patent law. Nevertheless, this absorbing look at the democratizing advances in invention technology should capture the imagination of engineers, programmers and entrepreneurs.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

There is little argument that invention spurs innovation, competition, and economic growth. With technology today, however, inventors can simply input a problem (a "wish") into a program and have the computer (a "genie") generate, or "invent," the ultimate solution. Who or what, then, is the true inventor of the final product? Plotkin, an intellectual property attorney, tackles this intriguing question by stating that patent law today does not lend itself to such broad interpretation. Further, the author convincingly illustrates an urgent need to reform current law so that it is neither too strong nor too weak in order to protect the future rights of inventors, businesses, and consumers. VERDICT Plotkin posits that "Computer Automated Inventing" or "Artificial Invention Technology" does not replace the human mind; rather, it augments and partners with its human counterpart to build a better mousetrap, whatever that might be. From toothbrushes to auto assembly, the author uses easy-to-understand analogies that most lay readers will understand. Recommended for committed readers in business, computer science, or law.—Judy Brink-Drescher, Dowling Coll., Oakdale, NY


—Judy Brink-Drescher

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780804756990
Publisher:
Stanford University Press
Publication date:
05/05/2009
Pages:
280
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Robert Plotkin is a patent lawyer specializing in patent protection for computer technology, with an emphasis on software patents. His clients range from individual inventors to Fortune 50 companies. He is a Lecturer at the Boston University School of Law and has written and spoken internationally on patent protection for software, computer ethics, freedom of expression in software source code, and electronic privacy. He is the founder of Robert Plotkin, P.C. in Burlington, Massachusetts, which has been named a "Go-To Law Firm for Leading Technology Companies" by American Lawyer Media.

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