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[techbooks] REVIEW: "Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind", Hans Moravec

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  • Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Tr
    BKRBTMMT.RVW 990416 Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind , Hans Moravec, 1999, 0-19-511630-5, U$25.00/C$40.00 %A Hans Moravec %C 70 Wynford Drive,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 1999
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      BKRBTMMT.RVW 990416

      "Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind", Hans Moravec, 1999,
      0-19-511630-5, U$25.00/C$40.00
      %A Hans Moravec
      %C 70 Wynford Drive, Don Mills, Ontario M3C 1J9
      %D 1999
      %G 0-19-511630-5
      %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
      quite readable.

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 1999 BKRBTMMT.RVW 990416

      ====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
      rslade@... rslade@... slade@... p1@...
      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
      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade

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