Predicting the Internet
In his recent editor’s letter “On Science Fiction” (March/April 2007), Jason Pontin writes that “Older computer scientists and electrical engineers such as Marvin Minsky and Seymour Cray, born in the mid-1920s, pursued a vision of humanlike artificial intelligence and mainframe computing popularized by science fiction after World War II (see Isaac Asimov’s ‘Multivac’ stories).” Minsky and Cray just missed the right story, as did a lot of other folks. Murray Leinster, in his story “A Logic Named Joe,” predicts a version of the Internet and the home computer. Astoundingly, it was published in 1945.
Alan Dean Foster
Taking Exception to the Rules
I enjoyed Jason Pontin’s editor’s letter about the expression of ideas (“On Rules,” January/February 2007). But in closing, he writes, “The best expression of ideas occurs in forms that are strict and simple.” I take issue with this notion and the thrust behind it: the belief that ideas should be conventionalized and rule based. Envisioning ideas in a form–as expressed by a software language or by a poem–limits the possibility of expression and the development of new form.
In my opinion, it only makes sense to think of “mature” ideas in a strict and simple form. Ideas that are under development are messy and complicated things. It is the process of interacting with, and distilling, an idea that shapes it into a useful form.
Michael H. Felberbaum
An item in the “10 Emerging Technologies, 2007” feature in the March/April issue incorrectly identified Ed Boyden as a postdoc at Stanford University. He was a Stanford graduate student when he performed the research described.
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