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Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence / Edition 1

Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence / Edition 1

by Hans Moravec
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Imagine attending a lecture at the turn of the twentieth century in which Orville Wright speculates about the future of transportation, or one in which Alexander Graham Bell envisages satellite communications and global data banks. Mind Children, written by an internationally renowned roboticist, offers a comparable experience—a mind-boggling glimpse of a world we may soon share with our artificial progeny. Filled with fresh ideas and insights, this book is one of the most engaging and controversial visions of the future ever written by a serious scholar.

Hans Moravec convincingly argues that we are approaching a watershed in the history of life—a time when the boundaries between biological and postbiological intelligence will begin to dissolve. Within forty years, Moravec believes, we will achieve human equivalence in our machines, not only in their capacity to reason but also in their ability to perceive, interact with, and change their complex environment. The critical factor is mobility. A computer rooted to one place is doomed to static iterations, whereas a machine on the prowl, like a mobile organism, must evolve a richer fund of knowledge about an ever-changing world upon which to base its actions.

In order to achieve anything near human equivalence, robots will need, at the least, the capacity to perform ten trillion calculations per second. Given the trillion-fold increase in computational power since the end of the nineteenth century, and the promise of exotic technologies far surpassing the now-familiar lasers and even superconductors, Moravec concludes that our hardware will have no trouble meeting this forty-year timetable.

But human equivalence is just the beginning, not an upper bound. Once the tireless thinking capacity of robots is directed to the problem of their own improvement and reproduction, even the sky will not limit their voracious exploration of the universe. In the concluding chapters Moravec challenges us to imagine with him the possibilities and pitfalls of such a scenario. Rather than warning us of takeover by robots, the author invites us, as we approach the end of this millennium, to speculate about a plausible, wonderful postbiological future and the ways in which our minds might participate in its unfolding.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 2900674576185
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 01/02/1990
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

Hans Moravec is known for his work on robotics and artificial intelligence, and his writings on the impact of technology.

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Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Miro on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hans Moravec is director of the Mobile Robot Laboratory of Carnegie Mellon University and has spent his time from his days as a graduate student investigating artificial intelligence. Specifically he was attracted by the debate about the possibility of replacing the human nervous system with a more durable artificial equivalent. His essays turned into articles and his articles eventually turned into this book.Of course the idea is not accepted by many people but Moravec doesn't go into the moral question. In his view the new world will be one in which "the human race has been swept away by the tide of cultural change, usurped by its own artificial progeny". In other words given the rate of improvement in artificial intelligence, robots in the not too distant future will be able outperform human beings and so they won't need them anymore.At first the idea seems bizarre but so would the technology of the late 20th century looking from the vantage point of the 19th. Moravec collects all the evidence throughout the book. He presents very clearly data on the increases in computing power running from electro-mechanical machines, vacuum tubes, transistors to integrated circuits and shows how a top down approach (system design) and bottom up approach (learning evolving systems) are gradually chipping away at "humans only" areas. Interestingly computers in medicine can already offer reliable diagnosis and they can play chess at grand-master level. They are everywhere in process control and are taking the first steps in learning by being given likes and dislikes and the capacity for boredom (the gradual fade of learnt and recorded tasks in favour of new ones).Moravec builds up a convincing picture and along the way the reader gets to look at the 1972 ARPAnet breakdown caused by a spontaneous error (mutation) in a piece of data that went on to infect the whole network. Or alternatively the direction that the evolution of duplicating speciating data objects might take. He expects digital wildlife to reproduce sexually as this is the optimum way to provide the variety needed to fill the niches in their new world. He plays a robotic version of Axelrod's prisoners dilemma and concludes that the "tit for tat" result applies (i.e. robots would find it in their interests to cooperate between themselves-but not necessarily with us).Essentially the book follows Dawkins idea of human evolution having switched from genes to memes (stored knowledge evolution or evolution in the library) and takes it to its logical conclusion when knowledge abandons its human hosts.This is a very surprising book worth looking out for.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's hard to find a book by an expert within the robotics industry that's intellligbile to the masses and deals with issues relelvant to us all. Moravec's book is clear, scientifically trustworthy, and utterly fascinating. The one complaint I would really hold against it is that it often seems too speculative with insufficent evidnetial backup - perhaps this is what it takes to make it so fascinating. It touches on so many intersting points and it would've been great if it would've taken the time (perhaps doubling its size) to deal with them in greater depth. I also think many of his more philosophical proclaimations are very controversial and are quite in need of balance from the other side of the coin.