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Alieu Conteh
I found inspiration in the most unlikely place this morning. I ran across your Q&A with African entrepreneur Alieu Conteh (September/October 2007), in which he recounts the fascinating tale of his successful attempt to build a mobile-communications network in war-torn Congo. What a remarkable story of vision, energy, and optimism. I’ve enjoyed a subscription to your publication for several years, but this is the first time I’m circulating an article not simply because it informed me about technology but because it moved me.
Bill Cooke
Dearborn Heights, MI

Patent Law
I was very pleased to see the magazine publish an accurate patent law article written by a patent attorney (“Patent Law Gets Saner,” September/October 2007). Scott Feldmann provided an excellent lay summary of the impact, especially on patent “trolls,” of three very important (and notably concurrent) United States Supreme Court patent cases: eBay, MedImmune, and KSR, which many patent attorneys (me among them) had been avidly following. The soundness of these decisions may be due in part to the unusually large number of amicus briefs that were filed by organizations and academics.
Paul F. Morgan
Rochester, NY

Artificial Intelligence
I enjoyed the thought-provoking essay by Yale computer scientist David ­Gelernter about the state of artificial intelligence (“Artificial Intelligence Is Lost in the Woods,” July/August 2007). It does seem as if AI research is lost in its quest to emulate conscious thought. However, artificial life, a small offshoot of AI research, makes the subversive presumption that, as in nature, conscious behavior emerges from the bottom up: that is, it arises from the daily toils of simple systems evolving into complexity.

Two recent achievements come to mind: the entries in the DARPA Grand Challenge robotic road race and the twin Martian rovers. In both cases, the coupling of software with robotic sensors and mechanics seems to have achieved a close approximation of a prime component of intelligent systems: proactive self-preservation.

Even though imbuing conscious thought in computers is not on the radar screen of those in artificial-life research, there is a sense that it may be just beyond the edge of the screen.
Maurice Havelday
Morgan Hill, CA

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