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Darwin Among The Machines: The Evolution Of Global Intelligence

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  263 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Introducing a cast of known and unknown characters, George B. Dyson traces the course of the information revolution, illuminating the lives and work of visionaries - from the time of Thomas Hobbes to the time of John von Neumann - who foresaw the development of artificial intelligence, artificial life, and artificial mind. This book derives both its title and its outlook f ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published May 1st 1997 by Basic Books (first published 1997)
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May 03, 2016 Rhys rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Darwin Among the Machines is a fun book offering a perspective on the rise of the machines - self-acting, evolving machines achieving a level of consciousness.

As machines continue to become more complex and relational, it is suggested that we should create a digital reserve to allow code to evolve on its own - then domesticate the useful organisms, er, I mean programs.

"The Tierran reserve is envisioned as a cooperative laboratory for evolving commercially harvestable software of a variety and co
The appropriate thing to say, I suppose, is that this is a good overview of the emergence of artificial intelligence, starting from the 17th century with Thomas Hobbes and The Leviathan until the rise of the World Wide Web. Fascinating. Thought-provoking. Well researched. Darwin Among the Machines is all of that, for sure, so why can't I give it more than a meagre three stars rating?

The title refers to an essay written in 1863 by Samuel Butler, who argued that machines are a form of mechanical l
Selim Baydar
Sep 16, 2016 Selim Baydar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful,never have i thought so highly of a science history book,then again i do adore the subject. I think it was even better and more comprehensive than Turing's Cathedral, really got me thinking and i recommend it to anyone who wants to understand information and intelligence.
What do Thomas Hobbes, Erasmus Darwin, Samuel Butler, Alan Turing, Olaf Stapledon, and the RAND Corporation have in common? George B. Dyson explains what they have in common and more in his sometimes uneven but always fascinating book about "evolution of global intelligence" Darwin among the Machines. Dyson relates the story behind the growth of our global digital world through the individual stories of the above thinkers and more. They were all visionaries who saw beyond the everyday into the f ...more
This was the first non-fiction book that I got to on my 20 Books of Summer list. As I think I mentioned in my June Superlatives round-up, I have almost no background in computer engineering, evolutionary biology, or mathematics, so it was, to say the least, harder going than any of the fiction I’d read so far. Fortunately, George Dyson is a solidly competent writer; confusion never arose because he was confusing, just because I often didn’t have the knowledge that would have clarified things for ...more
Dec 28, 2010 Ilya rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: retro-computing
George Dyson, son of physicist Freeman Dyson, has no formal education; as a teenager he went to Canada, where he lived in a treehouse for three winters and built baidarkas instead of pursuing a more conventional career. He wanted to write a history of I am not sure what: computer science? artificial intelligence? evolutionary computation? but he is unqualified to do this, and does not realize that it is the case. I might smile at Nadine Gordimer's "Sam missiles" or "a reactor based on the harmle ...more
Jan 15, 2011 Steve marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Atlantic mag (Dec 2010) > Read Kenneth Brower's article on Freeman Dyson, a global warming skeptic. Kenneth Brower is the author of a book on Freeman Dyson & his son, George, entitled The Starship and the Canoe (1978). George Freeman is also the author of several interesting books. See the article that I saved to my iPad. Dyson portrayed as a very brilliant man, who has extended himself well beyond his area of expertise. Reminds me of Michael Crichton, who is also mentioned in this articl ...more
Ben Hunt
Apr 15, 2012 Ben Hunt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-history
Mr. Dyson makes the thoughtful argument that the age of intelligent machines began with Hobbes' Leviathan: we live in a world haunted by the non-human intelligences of states, capital, etc. Machines that are made of human beings but not themselves human.

Science fiction authors and star-crossed computational scientists often have long-winded debates about whether machines can think, whether they would be smarter than us, deserve rights, etc. Dyson says they're already here, and they've already wo
Max Shen
This is by far my most favorite 3-star book for its incredibly detailed, intelligent, and well-written tour of the history of computing. Unfortunately I feel like it's too speculative and gives too much credence without sufficiently rigorous thought to some dangerously "out-there" ideas. The book's influence in this regard makes me uncomfortable given the widespread praise and attention it has received.
TK Keanini
I'm not a big fan of Darwin, but I do like what George Dyson has to say in this book. You can read this the same week you read Kurzweil's "The Age of Spiritual machines". Those would go great together.
Apr 09, 2007 mcburton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pop, non-fiction
It has been a while since I read this book, but I remember really enjoying it. A nice history of machines/computing and a possible future where the "intelligence" of man and machine begins to blur. Anything by a Dyson is going to be good, you can always count on that.
Matt Denninger
Some cool info but by chapter 3 I was getting bored and ended up skimming through the rest. I find the book lacked unity or a thesis. It seemed more like random history lesson essays on machines rather than a unified book.
Gertjan Kuiper
Oct 30, 2012 Gertjan Kuiper rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Briljant boek over (kunstmatige) intelligentie, bewustzijn, evolutie, gebouwd op de fundamenten van denkers, uitvinders en wetenschappers tussen 1650 en 1990.
Lees je niet zo even uit en je zou willen dat Dyson een update schrijft voor een nieuwe editie.
Apr 15, 2014 Guy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating and deep look at the origins of computing (and networking) as the precursor of machine intelligence.
Seymour Hersh
Feb 07, 2015 Seymour Hersh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable read. It is wonderful how well Dyson integrated the many sciences and philosophies into a coherent picture of computing and all its facets. Whither AI is still a puzzle.

Dave Maddock
This book is eccentric, speculative, and prone to constructing just-so narratives of an (eventual?) evolution of machine intelligence. Sometimes these traits work in the book's favor, sometimes not.
John Stifter
Apr 11, 2015 John Stifter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book I recommend everyone to read. A prophetic history book about the kingdom of numbers merging with the kingdom of machines.
Phil Smith
A neat read about the evolution of machine intelligence and the ethics related to that potential emerging issue.
Douglas Summers-Stay
I liked this partly because it was so much like the book that I'm working on. The subject is how machines are evolving intelligence. The author is the son of the Dyson who made up Dyson spheres.
Victor Alba de la Vega
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George Dyson is a scientific historian, the son of Freeman Dyson, brother of Esther Dyson, and the grandson of Sir George Dyson. When he was sixteen he went to live in British Columbia in Canada to pursue his interest in kayaking and escape his father's shadow. While there he lived in a treehouse at a height of 30 metres. He is the author of Project Orion: The Atomic Spaceship 1957-1965 and Darwin ...more
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