McPherson conveys the thrill of the possibility inherent in AI, but she’s frequently a giant step ahead of the game.

READ REVIEW

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

BUILDING SMARTER MACHINES

McPherson presents the evolution of artificial intelligence—machines with the “humanlike ability to reason and solve problems.”

That definition opens McPherson’s tour d’horizon of artificial intelligence, immediately placing readers on shaky ground. Philosophers have been debating “to reason” since long before Descartes. There is little doubt that McPherson richly explores the women and men who develop machines to do the drudge work of mechanical production and everyday life, but do either the amusingly crafty Watson, which took down the Jeopardy! game show champs, or Deep Blue, which humiliated Garry Kasparov, qualify as “a truly thinking machine, able to learn on its own and modify its own programming without human input”? The ability for a machine to reckon if/then is part of its programming. Sentience, which includes feeling, is stickier. How is it possible, as McPherson writes, that a machine programmed by humans “might not share human social and ethical values—such as notions of fairness, justice, and right and wrong”? Throughout, there’s too much supposition and not enough science; emblematic of this is a failure to convey exactly how Google Brain arrived at the concept of a cat without being commanded to: “All on its own, it had developed the concept of ‘cat.’ ”

McPherson conveys the thrill of the possibility inherent in AI, but she’s frequently a giant step ahead of the game. (Nonfiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5124-1826-2

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Lerner

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Despite the author’s fervor, this story ultimately fizzles.

THE BIGGEST EXPLOSIONS IN THE UNIVERSE

A book for young readers about the science of astronomy.

Howard, an aerospace engineer, enthusiastically instructs readers on the intricacies of the stars–the “biggest explosions” of her title. Beginning with a primer on our place in the universe, she then guides readers through the birth of stars, star groupings, dying stars, supernovae, the lifecycle of the sun, “weird, wacky, and mysterious” stars and the most violent outbursts in the universe. Enticed by the explosive title, some readers will be especially interested in the more frightening aspects of our cosmos, and the author satisfies with information about the eventual death of our sun, and black holes. Her stated goal is to demystify the lifecycle and role of stars, and with the help of eye-catching photographs and relatively nontechnical language, she succeeds. However, while Howard’s passion for the subject is certainly evident, her ability to connect with her intended audience is less assured–her nimble command of the subject matter is in stark contrast to the awkward tone of the prose. At times, it doesn’t seem like she’s addressing young readers. She begins her book by instructing her readers to “pile the whole family into your car,” but it’s unlikely the average child reader would be licensed to drive. On one page, Howard give a complicated lesson on calculating the distance to the edges of our solar system in light years–two pages later, she talks about gravity’s effect on “puppy dogs [and] kitty cats.” Stranger still, she anthropomorphizes the objects she submits to scientific rigor. She claims “a star smiles with its light and dances with joy” and that when “baby stars” are born, “they ignite their smiles [and] give off a big cough and blow all the dust and particles far away from themselves.” Treating the stars as entities with discernable lifecycles is one thing, but suggesting that they have emotions is disingenuous.

Despite the author’s fervor, this story ultimately fizzles.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4392-1527-2

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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Overall, a fascinating, practical read by a knowledgeable author that could have been significantly improved by some...

SELFIE MADE

YOUR ULTIMATE GUIDE TO SOCIAL MEDIA STARDOM

A step-by-step guide to becoming a social media star.

Debut author Rojas draws on her experience as the co-founder and CEO of DigiTour to put together a book of practical advice for teens aspiring to become social media stars. The book lays out concrete steps for doing everything from picking a platform to building a loyal following to monetizing online success. Case studies focus on individual social media celebrities and their paths to stardom, punctuated with lists, photos, questions for reflection, definitions, and, at the end, pages for note-taking. Throughout, Rojas provides opportunity for self-reflection, urging readers to think about what makes them unique, to become creators in their own right, and to seriously consider the downsides of fame. The book’s voice is clear and easy to read, balancing her serious, no-nonsense wisdom with wit and enthusiasm; the stern but nurturing tone makes it clear why social media stars sometimes call her “mom.” The book begins with reminders about basic online netiquette as well as internet safety guidelines. Unfortunately, the majority of social media stars profiled appear to be white, and the book’s references to teen girls lining up to see teen boy stars feel both heteronormative and gendered, not to mention an oversimplification of the complexities of fandom.

Overall, a fascinating, practical read by a knowledgeable author that could have been significantly improved by some attention to diversity. (Nonfiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-19674-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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