IN OUR OWN IMAGE

BUILDING AN ARTIFICIAL PERSON

The Age of the Robots is here, according to neural-networks consultant Caudill, who paints the current state of robotic research in glowing terms—and then warns that our ersatz spawn may prove to be an albatross around our neck. Two technologies are at work in the creation of an android: artificial intelligence, ``the attempt to make computers behave intelligently''; and neural networks, ``information-processing systems...that mimic our current understanding of the brain.'' Both are in fine mettle, as Caudill shows in what amounts to a book- length recipe for robots. Androids must be able to see, move, talk, remember, plan, solve problems, and learn from experience. Even now, the technology of vision is nearly licked. As for mobility, the first robots will tootle around on wheels, but two-legged locomotion is just a two-step behind. A ``human-like robotic finger'' exists, and today's robots can solve problems that no self-respecting human would entertain (``Delilah is a cat...all cats are furry,'' etc.). Soon robots will speak as fluently as Star War's C-3PO. And so on. Having delivered the high-tech goods, Caudill then performs some astounding leaps of logic and erects, on gossamer philosophical underpinnings, a claim that robots will possess what we know as feeling, mind, even life (according to her definitions, computer viruses are alive). This leads to such weighty questions as whether android hookers will be legalized (``might it not be safer from a hygienic perspective'') and, we kid you not, ``Could an android become...a Jewish rabbi?'' An intriguing, albeit clunkily penned (``NETtalk was an attempt to demonstrate neural network speech generation system capabilities''), glimpse into the current state of robotic research and of computer-jock fantasy. (Four halftones and 29 line drawings- -not seen.)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-19-507338-X

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1992

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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