cover image Rapture for the Geeks: When AI Outsmarts IQ

Rapture for the Geeks: When AI Outsmarts IQ

Richard Dooling, . . Harmony, $22 (260pp) ISBN 978-0-307-40525-8

Novelist and screenwriter Dooling (White Man’s Grave ) contemplates the “Era of Singularity,” the coming day when computers will be able to outthink humans, in this uneven take on the future of machine intelligence. Dooling is at his best when he profiles technology’s most captivating futurists: Ray Kurzweil, inventor of scanning and text-to-speech technologies, beguiles with his vision of human minds embedded in silicon chips; physicist and science fiction writer Vernor Vinge portrays a bleaker future where humanity serves its hyperintelligent computer overlords. Dooling veers back and forth between celebrating the speed with which technology is evolving and ruing its hidden perils (“our fatal flaw... is Promethean fire-stealing, the instinct to always and everywhere overreach”), along the way touching upon the computer research, various philosophies of mind and intelligence, and the historical tensions between man and machine. While an engaging writer, Dooling tends to indulge in sarcasm and snarky humor, which trivializes the deeper import of his message: that whether machines ever become self-aware, “living” minds, we are losing something of what makes us human when we lose control of our own creations and their meaning. (Oct.)