WHEN THINGS START TO THINK by Neil Gershenfeld

WHEN THINGS START TO THINK

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This book is the result of Gershenfeld’s years of research as director of the Physics and Media Group at MIT’s famous Media Lab—it lets us peek at the remarkable new digitized world he foresees. He thinks our digital world is immature and cumbersome. Personal computers are already as outmoded as typewriters; even the Internet and Worldwide Web are just emerging from their juvenile phase. The present Digital Revolution features machines that merely entertain and dazzle when what we need is a digital world accessible to everyone and interactive on all occasions. Although some of Gershenfeld’s projects’such as a “personal fabricator” that works with digitized atoms, an electronic cello, or moveable and wearable computers—may seem exotic, all aim at enhancing ordinary people’s lives. Future digital books, for example, will be interactive, containing the best of traditional and digital worlds. “Smart” money will be able to be personalized and spent in many ways. Digitized educational opportunities will make many present teaching and learning practices obsolete. We must outgrow our two-dimensional digital world, Gershenfeld exhorts, and enter the multidimensional digitized world of sounds, sights, and even touch. The fact that a desktop needs a desk and a laptop needs a lap, he says, shows we are in the formative stages. New interface paradigms will allow children and adults to create, innovate, learn, and teach. But, he claims, the digital world must be in harmony with the natural world, and we can learn from biological models. Gershenfeld’s vision of a digitized future is a humanistic one, finally: the cyberworld should enhance the real world, not replace it, and should empower people, not machines, to solve problems. This can be done only in collaboration with digital researchers, academics, and the scientific community, but input must also come from common folks. Gershenfeld continually advances the cutting edge of the Digital Revolution, while striving to humanize it. (16 b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8050-5874-5
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1998