cover image MIND AT LIGHT SPEED: A New Kind of Intelligence

MIND AT LIGHT SPEED: A New Kind of Intelligence

Rebecca Kai Dotlich, . . Free Press, $26 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-0501-6

Purdue University physics professor Nolte charts the future of computing in an excellent book designed to appeal to the specialist as well as the general reader. Someday, Nolte writes, "luminous machines of light made from threads of glass and brilliantly colored crystals that glow and shimmer, pulsating to the beat of intelligence" will be commonplace. In other words, clunky electronics that rely on electrons to regulate the flow of information will be replaced by fiber optics that use laser beams to regulate other information-encoded laser beams. But with this generation of machines already at hand, Nolte envisions a further departure: a computer's "consciousness" will be driven by quantum physics. Light computers will use the qubit, the quantum version of the binary bit, to process all answers to a question simultaneously, and could use holographic symbols rather than binary systems as units of information. Nolte supports his case with a broad foundation of argument that includes chapters drawing together the history of quantum physics, the mechanics of human sight and intelligence, linguistics and semiotics. He also gives compelling insights into the nature of human thought and the technology that, he says, could far exceed it. Nolte's optimism poses a striking contrast to Roger Penrose's contentious and superb The Emperor's New Mind and subsequent Shadows of the Mind, which argued that computers cannot rise to the level of human thought. Nolte sounds at times like a seer caught up in rapture at the shape of things to come, but his research is cutting edge and his predictions forceful. (Dec.)