When World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov lost the now-famous rematch against IBM's chess-playing computer Deep Blue last year, millions were riveted. When NASA mounted its historic mission to Mars, the world watched spellbound as a sophisticated mechanical device rolled across the surface of the red planet, taking photographs and analyzing rock samples. Consequently, these events stirred renewed speculation about one of modern science's most fascinating, and haunting, pursuits--the creation of a machine with a mind.
While the likes of HAL, the sentient, conversant computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the android "replicants" of Blade Runner have mainly kept Artificial Intelligence a purely science-fictional concept in the public eye, the quest to synthesize thought has been very much a reality for decades--and not without striking successes. From the pioneering experiments in "cybernetics" of the 1940s to the digital computers and robot prototypes developed by Carnegie Mellon University and MIT researchers to Deep Blue, and on to the most current projects involving humanoid robotics and attempts to duplicate the evolution of intelligence, Mind Matters chronicles the extraordinary journey toward a scientific breakthrough that could well overshadow man's conquest of space.
Whether such a breakthrough is even possible, and what the implications--social, economic, political--for humankind will be if it is, makes Mind Matters the scientifically and philosophically provocative read of the year. Guided by the intimate knowledge, insight, and thoughtful wit of author James P. Hogan, both the technophile and technophobe alike will find themselves enthralled by the history and mystery of man's ultimate interaction with machine.