Computers cannot feel compassion, anger, or fear, and they cannot see or hear well. But ever since machines demonstrated their ability to outclass human beings in mathematical calculations and other manipulations of rigidly defined systems (such as chess), people have been intrigued by the idea of intelligent computers. In Mind Matters: Exploring the World of Artificial Intelligence, James P. Hogan explores the history and present state of the quest to create machines in our image.
First, Hogan explores the history of logic and other means of depicting and explaining thought. Hogan addresses Aristotle, Descartes, and other pioneers who studied the brain's analytical capabilities. He then explores clocks and navigation and number systems before delving into early computers--the first machines to simulate any part of the brain's function.
But the author does not dwell on the past. The bulk of this book has to do with the problems artificial intelligence (AI) pioneers are trying to solve today, such as symbolic logic, natural language, and artificial vision. Hogan gives plenty of attention to the best-known AI engine of our day, IBM's Deep Blue chess machine.
It is unusual to find a book as readable as this one that deals with a complicated, mathematics-intensive discipline such as AI. The text is understandable even when it is explaining the engineering issues of parallel processing. Plenty of footnotes provide references to more technical material. Hogan's work in Mind Matters deserves to stand with the best works of popular science writing.