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Hardcover | Out of Print | 472 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 37 b&w illus. | February 2008 | ISBN: 9780262083775
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The Mechanical Mind in History


The idea of intelligent machines has become part of popular culture. But tracing the history of the actual science of machine intelligence reveals a rich network of cross-disciplinary contributions—the unrecognized origins of ideas now central to artificial intelligence, artificial life, cognitive science, and neuroscience. In The Mechanical Mind in History, scientists, artists, historians, and philosophers discuss the multidisciplinary quest to formalize and understand the generation of intelligent behavior in natural and artificial systems as a wholly mechanical process. The contributions illustrate the diverse and interacting notions that chart the evolution of the idea of the mechanical mind. They describe the mechanized mind as, among other things, an analogue system, an organized suite of chemical interactions, a self-organizing electromechanical device, an automated general-purpose information processor, and an integrated collection of symbol manipulating mechanisms. They investigate the views of pivotal figures that range from Descartes and Heidegger to Alan Turing and Charles Babbage, and they emphasize such frequently overlooked areas as British cybernetic and pre-cybernetic thinkers. The volume concludes with the personal insights of five highly influential figures in the field: John Maynard Smith, John Holland, Oliver Selfridge, Horace Barlow, and Jack Cowan.

Contributors: Peter Asaro, Horace Barlow, Andy Beckett, Margaret Boden, Jon Bird, Paul Brown, Seth Bullock, Roberto Cordeschi, Jack Cowan, Ezequiel Di Paolo, Hubert Dreyfus, Andrew Hodges, Owen Holland, Jana Horáková, Philip Husbands, Jozef Kelemen, John Maynard Smith, Donald Michie, Oliver Selfridge, Michael Wheeler

About the Editors

Phil Husbands is Professor of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence at the University of Sussex.

Owen Holland is Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Essex.

Michael Wheeler is Reader in Philosophy at the University of Stirling. He is the author of Reconstructing the Cognitive World: The Next Step (MIT Press, 2005).


“All in all, I think this is a quite interesting book on (the anglo-saxon history of) cybernetics and AI. As a non-expert in this field, I learned many things, and I am happy to have read it.”—Genetic Programming and Evolvable Machines
“The contributions are interdisciplinary, containing discussions relating to, among other topics, history, biology, the arts, politics, computing and philosophy. It readily becomes apparent that opinions in some areas are very much divided. Progress in AI has certainly not been made at the rates predicted by Minsky. Indeed, it is suggested that perhaps no progress has been made at all, save in the wrong direction. Further, many of the questions that were posed 60 years ago are still pertinent and unanswered today. The fourteen articles are supplemented with transcripts of interviews with five highly influential figures in fields related to machine intelligence. Together these contributions paint a vivid picture not only of cybernetic and AI research in particular, but more generally, of researchers and research communities at work. I found [The Mechanical Mind in History] thought-provoking and hard to put down.”—British Computer Society