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REVIEW: "The Invisible Future", Peter J. Denning

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  • Rob, grandpa of Ryan, Trevor, Devon & Ha
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 2, 2005
      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
      %D 2002
      %G 0-07-138224-0
      %I McGraw-Hill Ryerson/Osborne
      %O U$24.95 905-430-5000 +1-800-565-5758 fax: 905-430-5020
      %O http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0071382240/robsladesinterne
      %O http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/0071382240/robsladesin03-20
      %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

      ====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
      rslade@... slade@... rslade@...
      Yesterday, Mr. Hall wrote that the printer's proofreader was
      improving my punctuation for me, and I telegraphed orders to have
      him shot without giving him time to pray.
      - Mark Twain in an 1889 letter to a friend
      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade
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