The Fourth Discontinuity: The Co-Evolution of Humans and Machines

Bruce Mazlish, Author Yale University Press $45 (282p) ISBN 978-0-300-05411-8
In Mazlish's heady scenario, combots (computerized robots), enjoying a symbiotic relation with humans, may transmogrify into a new species, while human beings, growing ever more mechanical in body and mind, also turn into ``something like a new species . . . Homo comboticus ,'' who will replace ``precomputer Man.'' People, asserts this MIT history professor, differ from machines only to a degree; the ``fourth discontinuity''--our mental separation from the machines we create--will soon end, he predicts. This provocative study first assesses the shocks to the human ego administered by Copernicus, Darwin and Freud, who refuted our species' presumed discontinuities with the universe, with the animal kingdom and with our own subconscious minds. Ranging widely from Leonardo's inventions to genetic engineering, with excursions into ancient automata, Charles Babbage's prototype computers, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Samuel Butler's Erewhon , Mazlish ponders our ambivalent relationship to technology. Illustrated. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/1993
Release date: 08/01/1993
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 282 pages - 978-0-300-06512-1
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