"Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind", Hans Moravec, 1999,
%A Hans Moravec
%C 70 Wynford Drive, Don Mills, Ontario M3C 1J9
%I Oxford University Press
%O U$25.00/C$40.00 mackinnj@...
%P 227 p.
%T "Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind"
Although Moravec's examples are all taken from autonomous (or intended
to be autonomous), functional, and generally mobile machines, his
major analysis seems to belong more properly to artificial
intelligence (AI). However, this minor cavil aside, the book is quite
a fascinating ride.
Chapter one is a history, not of computers or recent technology, but
of our race and its evolution. This is used to chart a course where
robots are the next steps, first as assistants, then as colleagues,
and finally as our intellectual descendants. Research and development
of robotics, including Moravec's own work, is reviewed in chapter two.
The background provided helps anchor the following discussions in
reality, as well as lending greater credibility to those
extrapolations that might stretch the imagination. Very reasonable
and cogent arguments are presented for the purported "failure" of AI
and robotics in chapter three.
The foregoing chapters are a mere springboard. The groundwork having
been laid, chapter four looks at a rough division of four generations
of robots to be developed over the next forty years. The discussion
of including "emotion" in those machines is an interesting, but quite
distinct, counterpoint to Rosalind Picard's "Affective Computing" (cf.
BKAFFCMP.RVW). (I am somewhat surprised; given the inclusion of
material on emotion, machine learning, and the status of robots as our
descendants; that Moravec does not more fully examine the period when
we will be teaching our mechanical "children." As a grandfather, I
find the idea intriguing.)
And this, it turns out, is only a springboard itself. The final three
chapters examine robots (and formerly biological minds, transplanted
to artificial brains and bodies) as they explore new technologies only
hinted at by current theories. First robots will develop new bodies
and capabilities as they break bonds of earth and size. Then comes a
look at escape from matter. And, at last, the possibility of escape
from spacetime itself.
In one sense, the scope of the book works against itself. Those who
enjoy the early look at current technologies may become uncomfortable
when the latter parts try "to see eternity" in the collapse of the
universe. However, everyone interested in the concept of robotics
will find some part of the book to be to their liking. At one level
is hard technology, at another is fascinating fantasy. All of it is
copyright Robert M. Slade, 1999 BKRBTMMT.RVW 990416
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I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has
endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to
forgo their use - Galileo
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