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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Book Review: Darwin among the Machines by George Dyson


Darwin among the Machines by George Dyson delves into the evolution of global intelligences. Even though it does offer some scientific tid bits it is primarily a philosophical book that explores the growing field of artificial intelligence. Darwin discovered organisms working under various laws to Turning’s simple thinking machine.  The Internet provides a global platform for creating global intelligence where constant streaming of information can be incorporated into brighter minds and machines. The process of development is based in principles found by Darwin and others. 

His work is a historical understanding of intelligence that starts with Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and moves all the way into modern theory. Thomas Hobbes wrote in the book Leviathan “Nature (the Art whereby God hath made and governes the world) is by the Art of man, as in many other things, so in this also imitated, that it can make an Artificial animal”.  In other words, the laws of nature can be put within a theoretical understanding and then into machinery (automata). 

His work then moves into John von Neumann’s (1903-1957) who discusses the connections between neural activity and Game Theory.  Intelligent machines are able to handle a flow of information and convert that information into logic. John von Neumann’s discovery of replication in complex creatures was a precursor for DNA and modern neurobiology. 

He stated, “To understand high-complication automata and, in particular, the central nervous system... this process logic will have to undergo a pseudomorphosis to neurology to a much greater extent than the reverse.” The thinking machine will need to change and replicate itself in much the same way as biological beings. That change and process of information comes from the central processing system (i.e. central nervous system). 

The author argues that the whole world has collective intelligence above and beyond the intelligence of the individual parts. Machines may someday be able to process that intelligence but they are projections of the human mind and therefore have limitations. The human race will continue to develop and reach higher heights in understanding. The risks humans face is that they may disintegrate and collapse like other species. It is not sure if machines have the same risks. 

The book is relevant for modern day changes in robotics and artificially intelligence. If you follow the technology industry you may be surprised by announcements related to robotic development, artificial intelligence, micro-manufacturing, and acquisitions within particular companies. This development has been growing for many generations and is often marked by misunderstanding, myth, lore and fear. There will sure be greater scientific understandings of human intelligence as developers seek to mimic and understand these functions for other uses. 

Dyson, G. (1997). Darwin among the Machines-The Evolution of Global Intelligence. NY: Basic Books
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