Moths to the Flame
"For two decades now I've been awaiting a book explaining computers and their social consequences to literate readers without using any unnecessary jargon or pedantry—or math. I wanted such a book to lend to all those friends who've pestered me about computers and to all the computer science students who've asked me about computers over the years. I particularly wanted a book that I could buy for my father, who's an accountant of the old school, to explain something of the mysterious world I live in."
Gregory Rawlins, who teaches artificial intelligence at Indiana University, got tired of waiting for that book and decided to write it himself. In Moths to the Flame he takes us on a humorous yet thought-provoking tour of the world wrought by modern technology, a technology, he points out, that is rooted deep inside the military: a technology that when applied to everyday life, may have startling results. Unlike space technology, today's technological race won't simply bring us Tang-flavored Velcro.
Rawlins educates by entertaining. His stories and anecdotes enliven and surprise us while increasing our awareness of technology itself as a player in the political and commercial climate of our times. In our headlong rush toward networked humanity Rawlins raises serious concerns about our future jobs and our future wars: we can figure out what kind of job to get today if we know where technology is taking us tomorrow.
The book's first four chapters explore the worlds of privacy, virtual reality, publishing, and computer networks, while the last four focus on social issues such as warfare, jobs, computer catastrophes, and the future itself. Throughout unusual, eye-opening analogies and historical comparisons—from Egyptian hieroglyphics to the sewing machine to the codebreakers of World War II—give us a context for the computer age, showing how new technologies have always bred intertwined hope and resistance.
Provocative yet balanced and sophisticated, Moths to the Flame is an indispensable guidebook to the future: a Baedeker for the Brave New World.
A Bradford Book
“Moths to the Flame is a heady mixture of futuristic prophecy and historical perspective covering all aspects of computer technology, some frightening, some practical, some fanciful.... Intelligent layreaders will find that Rawlins ... is plenty smart without being obscurantist.”—Publishers Weekly
“Total immersion in artificial environments integration of computer networks with the human nervous system intelligent weapons that stalk their targets the triumph of intellectual resources over natural resources well I could go on. Rawlins weaves these inexorable trends and more into a highly engaging and yes suspenseful tale of the past exponentially transforming itself into the future. Highly recommended for readers who plan to be around during the early twenty-first century.”
—Raymond Kurzweil, Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Kurzweil Applied Intelligence Inc; Chairman Kurzweil Technologies Inc; Author of The Age of Intelligent Machines (MIT Press)
“Rawlins is a terrifically angular writer, crisp and fluid and recognizable. Very nice staccato in the vignettes and stories he uses to illustrate his notions, VERY interesting metaphors, almost anthropological in its reach and ability to hang in one's memory like an afterimage.”
—Deborah Fitzgerald, Program on Science and Technology, MIT