Slaves of the Machine: The Quickening of Computer Technology

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9780262681025: Slaves of the Machine: The Quickening of Computer Technology

In Moths to the Flame, Gregory J. E. Rawlins took lay readers on a tour of the exciting and sometimes scary world to which compters are leading us. This new book is for those who are new to computers and want to know what is "under the hood." It shows what computers can do for us and to us. It tells the story of how we became slaves to our machines and how our machines may one day become slaves to us. Written in an accessible, anecdotal form, Slaves of the Machine presents the birth of the computer, charts its evolution, and envisions its development over the next fifty years.Each of the six chapters asks a simple question: What are computers? How do we build them? How do we talk to them? How do we program them? What can't they do? Could they think? After answering its question, each chapter views its topic in terms of the state of the art as of 1997 and into the near future. Rawlins successfully demystifies the computer --the first step away from slavery to it.

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Review:

Gregory Rawlins has a gift for explaining complex things in ways that not only make them crystal clear but also delightfully funny. He can explain, for example, the challenges of computer programming in terms of trying to get a "Napoleonic army of idiots" to invade Russia. And in just such a way he evolves a picture of what future computers might mean to society by taking the reader point by point through cyberhistory, science, and mechanics. Are we truly in danger of becoming subservient to our machines? Maybe, says Rawlins. This is no alarmist book, nor even an anti-computer book. It's an extremely sensible look at past and present reality with an equally sensible willingness to stay alert for future surprises.

About the Author:

Gregory J. E. Rawlins is Associate Professor of Computer Science at Indiana University, Bloomington, and the author of Moths to the Flame (MIT PRess, 1996).

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