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THE FUTURE DOES NOT COMPUTE
Transcending the Machines in Our
Dust Jacket Flap Text
Many pundits tell you that the computer is ushering us toward a new Golden
Age of Information. A few tell you that the computer is destroying
everything worthwhile in our culture. But almost no one tells you what
Stephen L. Talbott shows in this surprising book: the intelligent machine
gathers its menacing powers from hidden places within you and me. It does
so, that is, as long as we gaze into our screens and tap on our keyboards
while less than fully conscious of the subtle influences passing through the
Talbott awakens us to these influences by conducting a wide-ranging tour:
Why do we hail the birth of the electronic global village just as
villagers around the world are killing each other? Is the Net an
instrument for social dissolution?
Do the Renaissance origins of virtual reality throw light on our
world-creating and world-destroying choices today? Does reality have a
Were the barriers to creation of thinking machines clarified by a
little-known philologist investigating the mythic consciousness of the
Does the computer centralize or decentralize structures of power? Or
does this question miss the point, because intelligent machines that run by
themselves are creating a new global totalitarianism without a despotic
Is the frantic urging to put schoolchildren on the Internet any more
reasoned than the Seventies' fad for programmed instruction, or the Eighties'
fad for computer literacy?
Does an unrecognized law link the public face and the dark underside of
the Net? If so, can we expect flame wars, weird impersonations, pornographic
commerce, and Net psychoses to grow increasingly pronounced and erratic,
while at the same time the reasoned mechanisms for filtering "strict
business" from the chaos steadily gain in effectiveness?
Is artificial intelligence raising machines to a human level, or are we
descending to the machine's level?
After reading The Future Does Not Compute, you will never again
be able to sit in front of your computer with quite the same glazed stare.
Stephen L. Talbott went from Presidential
Scholar to farmer, and from editing an interdisciplinary, scholarly journal
about the catastrophist theories of Immanuel Velikovsky, to 14 years
working in the computer industry. For the past few years he has been a
senior editor at O'Reilly & Associates, publishers.
Mr. Talbott recently moved with his family from the Boston technology belt
to rural New York, where his efforts to reach an accommodation with his
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