A survey of the current state of computer intelligence research, from a science-fiction writer (The Immortality Option,...


MIND MATTERS: Exploring the World of Artificial Intelligence

A survey of the current state of computer intelligence research, from a science-fiction writer (The Immortality Option, 1995, etc.) whose novels have often dealt with the subject. Hogan illustrates the possible future of artificial intelligence by sketching several blue-sky scenarios, ranging from a ""smart"" auto that can find its destination without human guidance to self-replicating robots that incorporate design improvements in newer models and thus display a sort of ""evolution."" He then turns to history to show the foundations of the concept, from mechanistic Aristotelian logic to the Turing Test. But, of course, the major advancements have taken place over the last three decades, with the development of increasingly subtle and versatile programming languages and machines capable of high-speed performance. A benchmark event in this story, at least to the general public, was the defeat of world chess champion Gary Kasparov by Deep Blue, an IBM computer optimized for chess-playing. Hogan examines in some detail the history of chess programs, with sample games from several systems pitted against human masters. Other chapters examine three-dimensional model-building, attempts to understand natural languages, and similar advanced applications of AI research. Hogan takes time to consider the criticisms of such skeptics as Roger Penrose, then calls on his science-fictional predictive credentials to take a look into the possible future of the discipline. There are already plenty of areas where a decent home computer can outperform human experts in a given field, as in number-crunching or database management. Other areas will most likely remain human preserves for many decades to come, although even the most optimistic researchers are cautious about predicting that robots will ever replace the human brain as the primary vehicles for understanding and interpreting the universe. Plentiful diagrams and practical examples give the nontechnical reader an insight into Hogan's often complex arguments, but the computer-literate are the most natural audience for this challenging exploration.

Pub Date: March 1, 1998


Page Count: 400

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1998