Sunday, November 3, 2013

Not the revolution you might think

Book: The Third Culture: Beyond the Scientific Revolution
Editor: John Brockman
Published: 1995 (Touchstone)
Pages: 388

Don’t trust the copy on the back of the book to accurately represent the content, is the lesson here, although it’s dwarfed by lots of mini-lessons on evolution, the philosophy of life, artificial intelligence verses artificial life, and what other scientists think of these theories.

It’s a collection of interviews of preeminent scientists in these fields, not so much a comparison of scientific thought to artistic thought like I expected. Although the scientists have been chosen because their theories involve more imagination, they don’t really talk explicitly about it.

In the intro, the editor talks about how he put the pieces together, and I really wish he had left in the questions he asked, because each essay is constructed like the scientist said/wrote it from their perspective, so I want to see the questions to see where it’s all coming from. Also, the comments by other scientists at the end of each essay were kind of useless and occasionally catty. They didn’t add much – any controversy worth mentioning was already touched on in the main essay.

But oh man. I learned so much about what, like, Richard Dawkins actually thinks about evolution, and how artificial life and artificial intelligence are different  (artificial life is actually much more difficult to simulate because it’s trying to make machines go through biological processes that we don’t fully understand yet, but intelligence is more mechanical), and how different people define consciousness.

All the essays were fascinating insights into stuff I don’t know enough about, so I enjoyed this book. It took me awhile to get through because each essay was pretty dense, but it was worth it and will be going onto the bookcart bookshelf and staying there.

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