Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Google Resumes Construction of 'Turing's Cathedral'


Good news! Google is to resume digitizing books. As for those who attempt to stand in the way of this project and set themselves up as 'The Enemies of the Compendium of Human knowledge' allow me to invoke a curse from one of my heroes - Thomas Jefferson:
I Swear upon the alter of God, eternal hostility to every form of tyranny over the mind of man.
George Dyson wrote this piece for The Edge recently called 'Turing's Cathedral' about his visit to Google on the 60th anniversary of John von Neumann's proposal for a digital computer. Here is a small segment:
My visit to Google? Despite the whimsical furniture and other toys, I felt I was entering a 14th-century cathedral— not in the 14th century but in the 12th century, while it was being built. Everyone was busy carving one stone here and another stone there, with some invisible architect getting everything to fit. The mood was playful, yet there was a palpable reverence in the air. "We are not scanning all those books to be read by people," explained one of my hosts after my talk. "We are scanning them to be read by an AI."

When I returned to highway 101, I found myself recollecting the words of Alan Turing, in his seminal paper Computing Machinery and Intelligence, a founding document in the quest for true AI. "In attempting to construct such machines we should not be irreverently usurping His power of creating souls, any more than we are in the procreation of children," Turing had advised. "Rather we are, in either case, instruments of His will providing mansions for the souls that He creates."

The future is heading our way quickly.


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