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RECOMMENDED!






Free Reads-Science and Fiction and artifical intelligence

by Wendy J. Woudstra   

 
 


  Books Mentioned
Out of Control
by Kevin Kelly
First published by Addison-Wesley
Freely available in HTML format from the author's Website

Different Kinds of Darkness
by David Langford
Available in PDF format from Fictionwise.com.

Fallen Angels
by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Michael Flynn
Available in Microsoft Reader, RTF, HTML, Pocket PC, and Rocket eBook reader formats from the Baen Free Library.

Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction
by Charles M. Wynn and Arthur W. Wiggins
Available for free browsing online from National Academy Press

 

If you've gone out to see the new Spielberg movie A.I. and now find yourself full of curiosity about science, the future, and intelligent computers, but short of cash after paying for the movie tickets and overpriced theater popcorn, here's a double dose of both fiction and non-fiction to keep you occupied until your next paycheck.

Out of Control by Kevin Kelly, the former Editor in Chief of Wired magazine, discusses the eventual evolution of machines that are autonomous, adaptable and creative, and consequently uncontrollable by humans. This will happen sooner rather than later, he says, because machines are already becoming "bio-logical" in their design, and what are humans but well-formed bio-logical machines?

If humans are just like computers, can our brains be crashed? In the short story Different Kinds of Darkness by David Langford, we find a future where it doesn't take much, just a mathematical image called a BLIT, to crash a human's brain the same way a computer crashes from a sufficiently complex query. BLITS become the ultimate terrorist weapon, and children are given special optic implants to darken the parts of their world that family and teachers can't control. Now, with a mild-dose BLIT found in a copy machine, the secret student group known as the Shudder Club holds contests to see who can stare at it the longest and prove worthy of their tenet: That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.

An entirely different version of the future can be found in Fallen Angels by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Michael Flynn. In this book, folks got so scared about the greenhouse effect, they elected a radical anti-technology government that eliminated anything that might pollute. Their scientific proof turned out to be pseudo-science, and their actions result in a devastating ice age.

If the folks of that future, fictional earth had read Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction: Where Real Science Ends...and Pseudoscience Begins, they might have acted to reverse their error once evidence had proven it false. In Quantum Leaps, Charles M. Wynn and Arthur W. Wiggins take a look at the difference between science and pseudoscience by examining such beliefs as creationism, out of body experiences and alien abductions. The only robots mentioned in the book are the ones out of science fiction movies, along with hairy dwarfs, goblins, three-eyed giants and one-eyed cyclopses, but the book may help you decide which version of the future you wish to believe, if any.