REVIEW: "The Invisible Future", Peter J. Denning
- BKINVFUT.RVW 20041216
"The Invisible Future", Peter J. Denning, 2002, 0-07-138224-0, U$24.95
%E Peter J. Denning
%C 300 Water Street, Whitby, Ontario L1N 9B6
%I McGraw-Hill Ryerson/Osborne
%O U$24.95 905-430-5000 +1-800-565-5758 fax: 905-430-5020
%O tl i rl 3 tc 2 ta 3 tv 2 wq 2
%P 348 p.
%T "The Invisible Future"
This book, like "Beyond Calculation" (cf. BKBYDCAL.RVW) before it,
resulted from the quadrennial ACM (Association for Computing
Machinery) "state of the art and science" conference. As noted of
that prior work, predicting the future is difficult. If, however, you
are going to take on the task you might as well do it boldly: timidity
is almost a guarantee of failure. The authors represented in "The
Invisible Future" seem to be less audacious than the earlier crew.
The subject of the conference behind this book seemed to imply an
evaluation of how information technology was pervading other fields,
and where IT might develop beyond the confines of computer science and
The first paper presents wandering thoughts on science and the pace of
discovery. The second notes the importance of computing to science.
Wishful thinking about useful technology for oceanography (and
probably the inspiration for the movie "Day After Tomorrow") is in a
third. A fourth examines analogues of information technology in
biology, but still concentrates more on what we can't do than what we
Rodney Brooks does investigate where robotics probably will go (and
likely where it won't, as well) in his essay, and so comes closer to
the intent of the work. Douglas Hofstadter provides an extensive
commentary on computer composition of music, but only with a limited
subset of the research going on. A seventh paper reviews the
importance of computing and communications to the marketing and
distribution of the electrical power infrastructure.
Alan Kay tells us that the computer revolution hasn't happened yet,
but mostly because his Dynabook idea isn't prevalent. Brown and
Duguid dispute the assertion that new technologies (particularly those
with a possibility for self-reproduction such as biotech, nanotech,
and robotics) could be dangerous. The tenth paper notes that the user
interface has stagnated over the past twenty years, while another
suggests that information systems need to become more human-centred.
Ray Kurzweil reiterates the point from his "The Age of Spiritual
Machines" (cf. BKAGSPMC.RVW) that artificial intelligence and robotics
will surpass human capabilities by the year 2030, and at that point we
will be able to scan ourselves into the nets and tag along for the
Possibly the less said about Bob Metcalfe's paper, the better. Vint
Cerf retails the standard predictions about ubiquitous computing. A
fifteenth papers does much the same with more details. Bruce Sterling
takes the ideas further, albeit in limited directions. Another paper
suggests that playing video games has raised a generation out of touch
with their bodies, and therefore out of touch with their psyches as
well. Denning finishes off by addressing the increasingly important
question of whether the various fields of information technology can
be called professions, and what the necessary characteristics of those
professions would be.
There are a number of interesting and important topics raised in this
collection of essays, but a larger quantity of questions that are not
covered. Overall, this book is less significant than those preceding
copyright Robert M. Slade, 2004 BKINVFUT.RVW 20041216
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