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Into the heart of the mind: an American quest for artificial intelligence.

In the movie War Games, Matthew Broderick saves the world from a fate worse than TILT! by getting a gung-ho computer to play lightning tic-tac-toe. After a few tense moments, the machine figures out that nuclear war, like tic-tac-toe, is a futile waste of time. "The only way to win," WOPER's mechanical voice intones solemnly, "is not to play." Unlike some human beings (Ronald Reagan with his Lebanon policy leaps to mind) computers in the real world have long been able to avoid repetitious folly. But a computer capable of true learning does not yet exist.

Frank Rose's Into the Heart of the Mind is a fascinating yet exasperating account of the efforts of a group of Berkeley artificial intelligence (A.I.) researchers to teach a computer named Kim No-VAX (actually a Digital Equipment Corporation PDP VAX/780) to think for itself. Rose is first-rate at depicting A.I. hackers and hondlers as they hustle for grants (mostly from the Pentagon) and glory. "I think there'll be an all-knowing machine someday," says one. "That's what we're about." But while Rose's ear for mythology-in-the-making is excellent, his depiction of the hard (and soft) science involved in artificial intelligence is ultimately that of an enthusiastic outsider. The result is a book that provokes many more questions than it can answer.

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Author:Guttenplan, D.D.
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 17, 1984
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