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Book details of 'Moths to the Flame : The Seductions of Computer Technology'

Cover of Moths to the Flame : The Seductions of Computer Technology
TitleMoths to the Flame : The Seductions of Computer Technology
Author(s)Gregory J. E. Rawlins
ISBN0262181762
LanguageEnglish
PublishedAugust 1996
PublisherMIT Press
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Reviewer Rob Slade wrote:
From the subtitle, "The Seductions of Computer Technology", one can, perhaps, assume that the book is not going to be an unalloyed apologia for the computer. Poor old technology seems to be a popular stuffed lion to kick these days. Rawlins' book, more like a series of articles, is more informed and erudite than most, but readers of, say, the RISKS-FORUM Digest will find this to be thoroughly plowed ground. Rawlins looks at encryption (rather well, actually), virtual reality, information technology, the net, weapons technology, and employment. Chapter seven gets a little out of hand: it finishes with two (not terribly good) science fiction "cautionary tale" set pieces. The final chapter moves out into the realm of technology in general, but returns to a bit more balanced view. copyright Robert M. Slade, 1996

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Book description:

"Rawlins is a terrifically angular writer, crisp and fluid and recognizable. Very nice staccato in the vignettes and stories he uses to illustrate his notions, VERY interesting metaphors, almost anthropological in its reach and ability to hang in one's memory like an afterimage." -- Deborah Fitzgerald, Program on Science and Technology, MIT "Total immersion in artificial environments, integration of computer networks with the human nervous system, intelligent weapons that stalk their targets, the triumph of intellectual resources over natural resources, well I could go on. Rawlins weaves these inexorable trends and more into a highly engaging and, yes, suspenseful tale of the past exponentially transforming itself into the future. Highly recommended for readers who plan to be around during the early twenty-first century." -- Raymond Kurzweil, Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Kurzweil Applied Intelligence, Inc; Chairman, Kurzweil Technologies, Inc,; Author of The Age of Intelligent Machines (MIT Press) "For two decades now I've been awaiting a book explaining computers and their social consequences to literate readers without using any unnecessary jargon or pedantry -- or math. I wanted such a book to lend to all those friends who've pestered me about computers and to all the computer science students who've asked me about computers over the years. I particularly wanted a book that I could buy for my father, who's an accountant of the old school, to explain something of the mysterious world I live in." Gregory Rawlins, who teaches artificial intelligence at Indiana University, got tired of waiting for that book and decided to write it himself. In Moths to the Flame he takes us on a humorous yet thought-provoking tour of the world wrought by modern technology, a technology, he points out, that is rooted deep inside the military: a technology that when applied to everyday life, may have startling results. Unlike space technology, today's technological race won't simply bring us Tang-flavored Velcro. Rawlins educates by entertaining. His stories and anecdotes enliven and surprise us while increasing our awareness of technology itself as a player in the political and commercial climate of our times. In our headlong rush toward networked humanity Rawlins raises serious concerns about our future jobs and our future wars: we can figure out what kind of job to get today if we know where technology is taking us tomorrow. The book's first four chapters explore the worlds of privacy, virtual reality, publishing, and computer networks, while the last four focus on social issues such as warfare, jobs, computer catastrophes, and the future itself. Throughout unusual, eye-opening analogies and historical comparisons -- from Egyptian hieroglyphics to the sewing machine to the codebreakers of World War II -- give us a context for the computer age, showing how new technologies have always bred intertwined hope and resistance. Provocative yet balanced and sophisticated, Moths to the Flame is an indispensable guidebook to the future: a Baedeker for the Brave New World. A Bradford Book

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