magazine, December 1998
Redundancy Has Its Virtues
Robot is a dramatic, awe-inspiring
prophecy of the human future by Hans Moravec, computer scientist and
robotics guru extraordinaire. Wired readers sampled
Moravec's vision in "Superhumanism" (see
Wired 3.10, page 144). His new book amplifies and
substantiates that vision in concise, simple yet elegant prose.
Moravec argues that the
concept of work was unknown before agriculture and the industrial
revolution and that we'll get rid of it permanently within a few
decades, when smart machines free us not only from household chores,
but also from exhausting tasks such as writing computer software or
managing corporations. Contrary to popular fears, we'll
celebrate our redundancy because, as hunter-gatherers, indolence and
unemployment are part of our evolutionary heritage.
crucial transition should occur around 2030, when robots start basing
decisions on internal ruminations rather than trial and error.
After 2040, machines will display most human attributes. By 2100
rogue intelligences will adopt drastic measures to increase their
processing power -- perhaps using sub-subatomic particles for bit
manipulation. This will enable machine entities to run
simulations of the 20th century. In fact, we may be living in
one right now.
Robot is an uncompromisingly radical
synthesis of sociobiology, computer science, and philosophy.
Some found Moravec's 1988 book Mind Children far-fetched or
even repugnant; yet its portrayals of biology reworked by machines are
beginning to seem commonplace, which is a measure of Moravec's ability
as a futurist. Robot paints a head-bending but persuasive
picture of our next 50 years, augmented with fascinating fragments
from the more distant future.
-- Charles Platt
Hans Moravec: $25.
Oxford University Press.
Copyrightę 1998, The Conde Nast Publications Inc.