It Looks Real. The eternal struggle between algorithms and chaos
How can human beings instruct computers? What kind of questions can they ask them? And when can their responses be trusted? Not always, as we shall soon discover.
The pen of a brilliant writer, the science of an experimental physicist: a surprising union, highly-enjoyable reading.
Without the internal-combustion engine there would have been no ambulances, but neither would there have been any road accidents. This double-sided coin holds true for any work of the intellect. All technological progress, which is often a response to a problem, is equally often the start of other headaches. And computers are no exception. Marco Malvaldi and Dino Leporini describe the origins and development of computers and the problems they are capable of resolving, their monstrous speed and the consequences of their use. At times the results are marvellous: for example, computers are now capable of forecasting weather conditions and of saving human lives by designing increasingly safe vehicles. At others, as is easy to imagine, the results are disastrous, tragic or simply ridiculous: from the 2009 US economic crisis to the 24 million dollars demanded from an online seller for a university text on the habits of flies. But the questions don’t end here. Can we conceive of a computer that is capable of intuition? Could computers ever understand a joke or develop a conscience? To truly understand how profound and authentic our knowledge and its limits are, it is much more useful to teach a stupid person than it is to converse with a genius. And computers, by their very nature, are stupid.