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Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence

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Imagine attending a lecture at the turn of the twentieth century in which Orville Wright speculates about the future of transportation, or one in which Alexander Graham Bell envisages satellite communications and global data banks. Mind Children , written by an internationally renowned roboticist, offers a comparable experience―a mind-boggling glimpse of a world we may soon share with our artificial progeny. Filled with fresh ideas and insights, this book is one of the most engaging and controversial visions of the future ever written by a serious scholar.

Hans Moravec convincingly argues that we are approaching a watershed in the history of life―a time when the boundaries between biological and postbiological intelligence will begin to dissolve. Within forty years, Moravec believes, we will achieve human equivalence in our machines, not only in their capacity to reason but also in their ability to perceive, interact with, and change their complex environment. The critical factor is mobility. A computer rooted to one place is doomed to static iterations, whereas a machine on the prowl, like a mobile organism, must evolve a richer fund of knowledge about an ever-changing world upon which to base its actions.

In order to achieve anything near human equivalence, robots will need, at the least, the capacity to perform ten trillion calculations per second. Given the trillion-fold increase in computational power since the end of the nineteenth century, and the promise of exotic technologies far surpassing the now-familiar lasers and even superconductors, Moravec concludes that our hardware will have no trouble meeting this forty-year timetable.

But human equivalence is just the beginning, not an upper bound. Once the tireless thinking capacity of robots is directed to the problem of their own improvement and reproduction, even the sky will not limit their voracious exploration of the universe. In the concluding chapters Moravec challenges us to imagine with him the possibilities and pitfalls of such a scenario. Rather than warning us of takeover by robots, the author invites us, as we approach the end of this millennium, to speculate about a plausible, wonderful postbiological future and the ways in which our minds might participate in its unfolding.

224 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1990

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About the author

Hans Moravec

16 books47 followers
Hans Moravec (born November 30, 1948 in Austria) is an adjunct faculty member at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. He is known for his work on robotics, artificial intelligence, and writings on the impact of technology. Moravec also is a futurist with many of his publications and predictions focusing on transhumanism. Moravec developed techniques in computer vision for determining the region of interest (ROI) in a scene.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 18 of 18 reviews
Profile Image for Paula.
Author 1 book5 followers
June 9, 2012
I loved this book and I believe that this the kind of book that should be taught in schools. I have read extensively in academic evolutionary psychology and anthropology as well as theoretical science and technology, so the concepts in the book I did not find surprising. Built in to our mental survival skills are emotional filters to reject disturbing and non anthrocentric ideas. As biological organisms we of course will become extinct. We are insignificant relative to evolutionary time. Info is indeed power and this book refreshingly foresees the trajectory as we progress in technology.
Profile Image for Frederic Bush.
26 reviews
May 6, 2018
Wow, this is clearly the source material for at least 20 science fiction novels I've read. Moravec is an academic specializing in robotics, but he clearly could've had a career writing sci-fi. This book starts out as a somewhat dry history of robotics and computing, and then goes into wild speculation about nano-scale self-assembling "bush" robots, uploading consciousness, outliving the heat death of the universe, memetic predatory radio transmissions from the stars... pretty amazing stuff.
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,682 reviews345 followers
January 12, 2023
Seminal futurology. Great stuff.

My 1999 review: http://www.astralgia.com/sfzine/revie...
I have no idea how this review ended up here! Nor do I recall who I originally reviewed it for. Pretty decent review, 23 years on. I have no idea how the book holds up now.
Per https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Mo... this is the first of his two pop-science books, the other being "Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind", which I also liked.
Profile Image for Jacob Vorstrup Goldman.
101 reviews17 followers
November 7, 2022
Not 5 stars because of coherence or consistency, but given the time and context this is an awesome little book. As another reviewer points out, *many* sci-fi plots are invented/deduced by Moravec - for example the key device behind Liu Cixin’s Remembrance trilogy.
Profile Image for Andrés Zelada.
Author 8 books65 followers
January 1, 2023
Ensayo sobre la posibilidad de robots inteligentes que nos acaben sustituyendo. Está escrito en 1988 y se nota, porque la concepción de la informática es la de un señor de 40 años que lleva toda la vida trabajando con ordenadores y que se la tiene que explicar a profanos: leído en 2022, resulta divertidísimo.

El ensayo es un ejercicio especulativo notable (más una lista de buenos deseos que otra cosa), y solo lo conservo por la enorme cantidad de ideas que da para escribir ciencia ficción.
Profile Image for Brian Mikołajczyk.
819 reviews3 followers
February 21, 2019
Harvard Roboticist Hans Moravec wrote this book in 1990 before the internet and before the new wave of artificial intelligence research and predicts many of the industry paradigms that are now taking place! He also recalls the history of computers and robotics. An interesting read!
October 2, 2020
I have to give this book five stars. It probably is the best coexistence of outdated information (the book was written before the internet) and relevant, visionary, far-reaching argumentations about our future. It might be criticised for taking imagination exercises way too far, but that is precisely what I found fascinating about it. Hans simply does not care about any preconceived assumptions of what might or might not be feasible, he just bases most of is arguments and predictions on first principles, laws of physics and a touch of creativity to keep it exciting. Surprisingly his way of thinking and predictions seem to be a step further from those of most AI experts today. He very thoroughly elaborates the reasons why we humans are destined to gradually become extinct, even if(when) we manage to replace all our meaty pars with shiny metal/silicon or flawlessly upload our minds and detach completely from a physical body, even then, humans and human minds are guaranteed to be left behind by our mind children. He also manages not to leave you with a grim nihilistic feeling by also arguing that it is not the extinction of one species caused by a more advanced one, but rather the natural evolutive path of the same organism that is life as a whole.
Profile Image for Nick Traynor.
235 reviews15 followers
July 17, 2022
This book predates Ray Kurzweil's first book by a year or two and contains many ideas and germs of concepts that he uses in his work. A particularly striking example of this was Moravec's tracking of computer development back to the 1890 US census. It seems to be the beginning of the emergence in the 1980s and 90s of technological eschatology and digital immortality, and Vernor Vinge reviewed early manuscripts of the book. Looking at it 34 years after publication you can't help but notice the overly optimistic predictions, most notably that general purpose robots would be on the market by the year 2000. I was interested to see Moravec's estimate of the computational capacity of the human brain - 10 trillion operations per second; a few orders of magnitude below Kurzweil's 20 quadrillion. The imagination and enthusiasm of books like this appeal to me, even if the predictions don't eventuate in hindsight.
Profile Image for Wesley Fox.
324 reviews6 followers
July 25, 2020
An interesting read although mostly out of date or obsolete. I read Moravec's book specifically for his thoughts on AI and transferring consciousness from body into a computer. His approach is built on his expertise and our knowledge of computers in late 1980s but a good portion of it is not dependent on state of the art. In particular, Maravec's paradox is a concept that is still fascinating.

This book was largely read for research on a story and to get better grasp of Moravec's paradox. Since most of the exposition inside is out of date, I don't really recommend it unless you have strong interest in the theoretical history of the subject. I am sure computer scientists of this century benefit from innovations of past 30 years, and a bit of insight of their own.
Profile Image for James Giammona.
53 reviews1 follower
March 31, 2020
Very cool to see computers and the internet described in 1988. I actually found the descriptions of both novel and helpful since they were way closer to the bare metal operating of each.

Overall, I had already been exposed to a lot of these ideas, but agreed with his presentations of them and found it exciting to see these being discussed 30 years ago.

I even got kind of scooped on a sci-fi idea I had by his Celltick gedankenexperiment.
Profile Image for Pablo.
48 reviews
August 31, 2020
Si bien el libro fue terminado en el 1996 y muchas cosas quedaron desactualizadas , la idea es impecable , la inteligencia artificial esta en pañales si se convierte en nuestro adorador o en nuestro dios , en nuestro cuidador o en nuestro carcelero , en nuestro salvador o en nuestro verdugo, solo es cuestión de tiempo... y precisamente el tiempo es lo que le sobra
April 23, 2022
Thoroughly engrossing and mind blowing read, especially back in the 90s when I read it. Seldom do I encounter so many new and wild concepts in one short book, even from the most celebrated sci-fi authors. The vision of humanities potential future - both near future and far future, illustrated in Mind Children, grabbed me and never left, unlike many a glossy Hollywood movie or TV show. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Tom Mueller.
468 reviews23 followers
Want to read
June 1, 2012
My GR friend, Jason, turned me on to this one. Ever since learning the phrase AI and its' implications, I have been enthralled by the prospects of yet another SF proposal to become more or less main stream at some future point.
This promises to read along the lines of good, futuristic SF. It has already come to be, and is being enhanced exponentially.
Profile Image for Sam Nazari.
21 reviews1 follower
October 24, 2022
This is a remarkable book. In part its a nonfiction history and in part its every futurists’ fantastic orgy. The author lends the work credibility by injecting plenty of technical rigor to justify some of the claims. Its remarkable how much of the predictions In this book are on track. I enjoyed reading every sentence.
Profile Image for Merrari.
6 reviews2 followers
September 12, 2009
F***ing frightening, classist and inconsiderate of people who've just more recently come into their bodies.
Profile Image for Jeanny.
10 reviews2 followers
August 15, 2013
A great read, thought-provoking and my go-to reference when it comes to AI. Keeps me in the check when I'm out there shaping behaviors with new technology.
Profile Image for Richard Gombert.
Author 1 book15 followers
October 20, 2015
Interesting read.
I wish I had read this back in the late 1980s when I bought it (been languishing on my to read pile). Very prescient in many ways.
Displaying 1 - 18 of 18 reviews

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