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Nonfiction in Brief

MIND OVER MACHINE The Power of Human Intuition and Expertise in the Era of the Computer by Hubert L. Dreyfus and Stuart E. Dreyfus (Free Press: $9.95)

September 18, 1988|ALEX RAKSIN

Hubert and Stuart Dreyfus, philosophy and engineering professors respectively at UC Berkeley, offer a late 1980s version of Joseph Weizenbaum's "Computer Power and Human Reason," a 1976 book which cautioned that computers are merely tools, not mysterious machines capable of bringing forth an efficient, carefree "computer society." The authors admit that revolutions in computer technology have been substantial in the past two decades. The advances, however, have been in data storage and retrieval, they point out; in contrast, progress in artificial intelligence (AI) has been at a virtual standstill for over two decades because we have been unable to understand the brain's complex thought processes. AI researchers have been trying to find a way to store and access all the facts human beings seem to know, for instance, but the more we study the brain, the more absurd this premise seems, for the brain stores information in conceptual clusters we haven't begun to understand. On the other hand, the possibility that computers will be able to approximate some professional jobs doesn't seem to be as remote as the authors suggest. Their assertion that doctors do not follow some definable rules that can be programmed in the future is questionable, for one, especially as rising malpractice suits force standardization of practices.

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