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The steam engine and the future
|When the steam engine was king, the future looked steamy. The hulking machines, it seemed in the 19th century, would just grow bigger and more powerful.
That's easiest way to imagine the future: Start with what we have now, and exaggerate everything. And that's sort of what I did with The Boost
. We have cell phones that increasingly dominate our thinking, track our movements, and are fast turning into external lobes of our brains. So I simply made them tiny, maybe a million times more powerful, and moved them into the head.
I believe that computers will increasingly knit their way into our minds, but I'd bet the technology I describe in the book will be laughable in 2072. That's because between now and then there are likely to be jumps to different tech platforms. These will probably make the boosts seem as silly as a cell phone powered by an internal combustion engine, or perhaps Jules Verne's vision
of a moonship fired into space by a massive cannon.
What will the jump be? John Markoff writes in the New York Times
about Microsoft's research into quantum computers
. These could conceivably turn computing upside down. It would not only make computers thousands of times more powerful, but would also revolutionize the way they process information. It would conceivably permit them to introduce doubt into calculations--more the way we do. (Today's computers, in contrast, simulate doubt with billions of statistical calculations). Other researchers are looking into computing models based on animal brains.
The point is that the change won't come in a straight line, and it's likely to be more dramatic than we imagine--and more dramatic than the brain chips in The Boost.
Kirkus Reviews - https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/stephen-baker/the-boost/
LibraryJournal - Library Journal
Booklist Reviews - David Pitt
Locus - Paul di Filippo
read more reviews
Prequel to The Boost: Dark Site
- December 3, 2014
The Boost: an excerpt
- April 15, 2014
My horrible Superbowl weekend, in perspective
- February 3, 2014
My coming novel: Boosting human cognition
- May 30, 2013
Why Nate Silver is never wrong
- November 8, 2012
The psychology behind bankers' hatred for Obama
- September 10, 2012
"Corporations are People": an op-ed
- August 16, 2011
Wall Street Journal excerpt: Final Jeopardy
- February 4, 2011
Why IBM's Watson is Smarter than Google
- January 9, 2011
- October 3, 2010
The coming privacy boom
- August 17, 2010
The appeal of virtual
- May 18, 2010