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 inventand how we think about inventingforever."
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
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.
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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