Mirror Worlds: or the Day Software Puts the Universe in a Shoebox...How It Will Happen and What It Will Mean

Oxford University Press
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Technology doesn't flow smoothly; it's the big surprises that matter, and Yale computer expert David Gelernter sees one such giant leap right on the horizon. Today's small scale software programs are about to be joined by vast public software works that will revolutionize computing and transform society as a whole. One such vast program is the "Mirror World." Imagine looking at your computer screen and seeing reality--an image of your city, for instance, complete with moving traffic patterns, or a picture that sketches the state of an entire far-flung corporation at this second. These representations are called Mirror Worlds, and according to Gelernter they will soon be available to everyone. Mirror Worlds are high-tech voodoo dolls: by interacting with the images, you interact with reality. Indeed, Mirror Worlds will revolutionize the use of computers, transforming them from (mere) handy tools to crystal balls which will allow us to see the world more vividly and see into it more deeply. Reality will be replaced gradually, piece-by-piece, by a software imitation; we will live inside the imitation; and the surprising thing is--this will be a great humanistic advance. We gain control over our world, plus a huge new measure of insight and vision. In this fascinating book--part speculation, part explanation--Gelernter takes us on a tour of the computer technology of the near future. Mirror Worlds, he contends, will allow us to explore the world in unprecedented depth and detail without ever changing out of our pajamas. A hospital administrator might wander through an entire medical complex via a desktop computer. Any citizen might explore the performance of the local schools, chat electronically with teachers and other Mirror World visitors, plant software agents to report back on interesting topics; decide to run for the local school board, hire a campaign manager, and conduct the better part of the campaign itself--all by interacting with the Mirror World. Gelernter doesn't just speculate about how this amazing new software will be used--he shows us how it will be made, explaining carefully and in detail how to build a Mirror World using technology already available. We learn about "disembodied machines," "trellises," "ensembles," and other computer components which sound obscure, but which Gelernter explains using familiar metaphors and terms. (He tells us that a Mirror World is a microcosm just like a Japanese garden or a Gothic cathedral, and that a computer program is translated by the computer in the same way a symphony is translated by a violinist into music.) Mirror Worlds offers a lucid and humanistic account of the coming software revolution, told by a computer scientist at the cutting edge of his field.
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About the author

About the Author: David Gelernter is Associate Professor of Computer Science at Yale University and an expert in programming languages and methods, and in artificial intelligence.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Jan 28, 1993
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Pages
256
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ISBN
9780190281953
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Language
English
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Genres
Computers / Human-Computer Interaction (HCI)
Computers / Software Development & Engineering / General
Computers / Virtual Worlds
Social Science / Future Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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America-Lite (where we all live) is just like America, only turned into an amusement park or a video game or a supersized Pinkberry, where the past and future are blank and there is only a big NOW. How did we come to expect no virtue and so much cynicism from our culture, our leaders—and each other?

In this refreshingly judgmental book, David Gelernter connects the historical dots to reveal a stealth revolution carried out by post-religious globalist intellectuals who, by and large, “can’t run their own universities or scholarly fields, but are very sure they can run you.” These imperial academics have deployed their students into the top echelon of professions once monopolized by staid and steady WASPs. In this simple way, they have installed themselves as the new designated drivers of American culture.

Imperial academics live in a world of theory; they preach disdain for mere facts and for old-fashioned fact-based judgments like true or false. Schoolchildren are routinely taught theories about history instead of actual history—they learn, for example, that all nations are equally nice except for America, which is nearly always nasty.

With academic experts to do our thinking for us, we’ve politely shut up and let second-raters take the wheel. In fact, we have handed the keys to the star pupil and teacher’s pet of the post-religious globalist intellectuals, whose election to the presidency of the United States constituted the ultimate global group hug.

How do we finally face the truth and get back into the driver’s seat? America-Lite ends with a one-point plan.
Official U.S. edition with full color illustrations throughout.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Yuval Noah Harari, author of the critically-acclaimed New York Times bestseller and international phenomenon Sapiens, returns with an equally original, compelling, and provocative book, turning his focus toward humanity’s future, and our quest to upgrade humans into gods.

Over the past century humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but, as Harari explains in his trademark style—thorough, yet riveting—famine, plague and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals put together. The average American is a thousand times more likely to die from binging at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda.

What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake? Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century—from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? This is the next stage of evolution. This is Homo Deus.

With the same insight and clarity that made Sapiens an international hit and a New York Times bestseller, Harari maps out our future.

A “rock star” (New York Times) of the computing world provides a radical new work on the meaning of human consciousness.

The holy grail of psychologists and scientists for nearly a century has been to understand and replicate both human thought and the human mind. In fact, it's what attracted the now-legendary computer scientist and AI authority David Gelernter to the discipline in the first place. As a student and young researcher in the 1980s, Gelernter hoped to build a program with a dial marked "focus." At maximum "focus," the program would "think" rationally, formally, reasonably. As the dial was turned down and "focus" diminished, its "mind" would start to wander, and as you dialed even lower, this artificial mind would start to free-associate, eventually ignoring the user completely as it cruised off into the mental adventures we know as sleep.

While the program was a only a partial success, it laid the foundation for The Tides of Mind, a groundbreaking new exploration of the human psyche that shows us how the very purpose of the mind changes throughout the day. Indeed, as Gelernter explains, when we are at our most alert, when reasoning and creating new memories is our main mental business, the mind is a computer-like machine that keeps emotion on a short leash and attention on our surroundings. As we gradually tire, however, and descend the "mental spectrum," reasoning comes unglued. Memory ranges more freely, the mind wanders, and daydreams grow more insistent. Self-awareness fades, reflection blinks out, and at last we are completely immersed in our own minds.

With far-reaching implications, Gelernter’s landmark "Spectrum of Consciousness" finally helps decode some of the most mysterious wonders of the human mind, such as the numinous light of early childhood, why dreams are so often predictive, and why sadism and masochism underpin some of our greatest artistic achievements. It’s a theory that also challenges the very notion of the mind as a machine—and not through empirical studies or "hard science" but by listening to our great poets and novelists, who have proven themselves as humanity's most trusted guides to the subjective mind and inner self.

In the great introspective tradition of Wilhelm Wundt and René Descartes, David Gelernter promises to not only revolutionize our understanding of what it means to be human but also to help answer many of our most fundamental questions about the origins of creativity, thought, and consciousness.

The human brain has some capabilities that the brains of other animals lack. It is to these distinctive capabilities that our species owes its dominant position. Other animals have stronger muscles or sharper claws, but we have cleverer brains. If machine brains one day come to surpass human brains in general intelligence, then this new superintelligence could become very powerful. As the fate of the gorillas now depends more on us humans than on the gorillas themselves, so the fate of our species then would come to depend on the actions of the machine superintelligence. But we have one advantage: we get to make the first move. Will it be possible to construct a seed AI or otherwise to engineer initial conditions so as to make an intelligence explosion survivable? How could one achieve a controlled detonation? To get closer to an answer to this question, we must make our way through a fascinating landscape of topics and considerations. Read the book and learn about oracles, genies, singletons; about boxing methods, tripwires, and mind crime; about humanity's cosmic endowment and differential technological development; indirect normativity, instrumental convergence, whole brain emulation and technology couplings; Malthusian economics and dystopian evolution; artificial intelligence, and biological cognitive enhancement, and collective intelligence. This profoundly ambitious and original book picks its way carefully through a vast tract of forbiddingly difficult intellectual terrain. Yet the writing is so lucid that it somehow makes it all seem easy. After an utterly engrossing journey that takes us to the frontiers of thinking about the human condition and the future of intelligent life, we find in Nick Bostrom's work nothing less than a reconceptualization of the essential task of our time.
What does it mean to “believe” in America? Why do we always speak of our country as having a mission or purpose that is higher than other nations?
Modern liberals have invested a great deal in the notion that America was founded as a secular state, with religion relegated to the private sphere. David Gelernter argues that America is not secular at all, but a powerful religious idea—indeed, a religion in its own right.
Gelernter argues that what we have come to call “Americanism” is in fact a secular version of Zionism. Not the Zionism of the ancient Hebrews, but that of the Puritan founders who saw themselves as the new children of Israel, creating a new Jerusalem in a new world. Their faith-based ideals of liberty, equality, and democratic governance had a greater influence on the nation’s founders than the Enlightenment.
Gelernter traces the development of the American religion from its roots in the Puritan Zionism of seventeenth-century New England to the idealistic fighting faith it has become, a militant creed dedicated to spreading freedom around the world. The central figures in this process were Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson, who presided over the secularization of the American Zionist idea into the form we now know as Americanism.
If America is a religion, it is a religion without a god, and it is a global religion. People who believe in America live all over the world. Its adherents have included oppressed and freedom-loving peoples everywhere—from the patriots of the Greek and Hungarian revolutions to the martyred Chinese dissidents of Tiananmen Square.
Gelernter also shows that anti-Americanism, particularly the virulent kind that is found today in Europe, is a reaction against this religious conception of America on the part of those who adhere to a rival religion of pacifism and appeasement.
A startlingly original argument about the religious meaning of America and why it is loved—and hated—with so much passion at home and abroad.
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