The Invisible Future

From: John Thomas (
Date: Thu Jan 17 2002 - 21:52:40 MST

Reviewed in the current SciAm:

The Invisible Future: The Seamless Integration of Technology into Everyday
Life. Peter J. Denning, Editor. McGraw-Hill, New York, 2002.

How will technology shape the way humans and machines interact? Eighteen
essays posit 18 different answers, some optimistic, some not so. Based on a
think tank organized by the Association for Computing Machinery, the book
rounds up the usual suspects, among them Rodney Brooks, Vint Cerf, Michael
Dertouzos and Ray Kurzweil. Some unexpected suspects have been roped in as
well, including oceanographer Marcia McNutt and astrophysicist Neil
deGrasse Tyson.

As in any such collection, the individual essays are uneven, but this
doesn't prevent the book from being great fun to dip into. Three high
points are the musings of John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid, Douglas
Hofstadter and Alan Kay. Brown and Duguid, in a particularly well written
piece, analyze Bill Joy's famous warning (put forth in the April 2000 issue
of Wired) that the potential of new technologies for self-replication poses
a profound challenge. Hofstadter confesses his "confusion and surprise" at
hearing a Chopin-like mazurka written by a music composition system created
by Dave Cope of the University of California at Santa Cruz. And in an
analogy with the printing press, whose real effects weren't evident until
nearly 200 years after its invention, Kay may have said it all in just the
title of the collection's shortest contribution: "The Computer Revolution
Hasn't Happened Yet."

     John Thomas

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Fri Nov 01 2002 - 13:37:35 MST