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Brainmakers: How Scientists Moving Beyond Computers Create Rival to Humn Brain: How Scientists Moving Beyond Computers Create Rival to Humn Brain

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9780671510558: Brainmakers: How Scientists Moving Beyond Computers Create Rival to Humn Brain: How Scientists Moving Beyond Computers Create Rival to Humn Brain
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Join David Freedman as he takes you on a fascinating tour behind the scenes at laboratories around the world as top researchers race to create revolutionary "thinking machines" that may one day lead to a new form of intelligence.

The subject of fantasy and skepticism for centuries-- from William James's mechanical bride to 2001's Hal to Star Wars' R2D2-- artificial intelligence has been limited to number-crunching computers that are"smart" only in highly specific domains like chess-- until now. "Brainmakers" is an eye-opening, mind-expanding, and mind-blowing journey through laboratories engaged in cutting-edge research into neuro-science and robotics. Inside, you'll discover:

MIT's Attila, a 3.6-pound, six-legged robot that learns as it interacts with its surroundings.

Japan's efforts to grow brain cells on chips and construct a "wiring diagram" of the human brain

UCLA's "robot farm", where robots will be "bred" for intelligence.

In exciting yet accessible detail, Freedman shows how this research has moved into a new realm that transcends computer science, combining neuroscience, mircobiology, evolutionary biology, and zoology. Modeled after natural rather than artificial intelligence, thinking machines may soon develop powers that rival-- or exceed-- those of the human brain.

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About the Author:

David H. Freedman is a contributing editor for Inc. Magazine, and has written on science, business, and technology for The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Science, Wired, and many other publications. His newest book, Wrong, about why experts keep failing us, came out in June, 2010. His last book (coauthored) was A Perfect Mess, about the useful role of disorder in daily life, business, and science. He is also the author of books about the US Marines, computer crime, and artificial intelligence. Freedman's blog, “Making Sense of Medicine,” takes a close, critical look at medical findings making current headlines with an eye to separating out the frequent hype. He lives near Boston.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A lively, clear, and comprehensive survey of who's who and what they're up to in the world of Artificial Intelligence (AI to cognoscenti) from science journalist Freedman. The term ``artificial intelligence'' calls up visions of the advanced computers and human-like robots familiar from hundreds of science fiction movies. The state of the art in AI today is probably best symbolized by Rodney Brooks' robot Attila, a six- inch metal ``cockroach'' scrambling over and around obstacles in the MIT AI labs founded by Marvin Minsky some 30 years ago. Not that the field has stagnated; in fact, the software-oriented approaches explored by Minsky and his fellow pioneers (John McCarthy, Seymour Papert) are considered somewhat old-hat by today's AI researchers, who have branched out into dozens of new directions. Japanese teams, with a mandate to develop a ``sixth generation'' computer, are exploring how living neurons actually transmit information, hoping to build up a detailed ``wiring diagram'' of the human brain. At UCLA, Chuck Taylor and David Jefferson are following an evolutionary strategy: creating computer programs with small random variations, then choosing the most successful in each batch as the ``parents'' for a new generation, in imitation of biological natural selection. Even the ``neural network'' approach to AI, which mechanically emulates the pattern recognition capabilities of the human brain (and which was temporarily discredited by Minsky and Papert in a 1969 critique), has been revived with some success at Stanford and Caltech. All these researchers have made interesting progress; Freedman lucidly summarizes the methods and results of their investigations, as well as the criticisms of such skeptics as John Searle and Roger Penrose. While much remains to be done to match even the more conservative prophecies of AI pioneers such as Minsky, the accomplishments to date, are often fascinating and shed light not only on the future of computers, but on the nature of intelligence itself. -- Copyright 1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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