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Lee Edward Ashford. Plato and the Nerd: The Creative Partnership of Humans and Technology

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Lee Edward Ashford. Plato and the Nerd: The Creative Partnership of Humans and Technology
The MIT Press, 2017. — 288 p. — ISBN-10 0262036487, ISBN-13 978-0262036481.
How humans and technology evolve together in a creative partnership.
With the explosion of interest, hype, and fear about artificial intelligence, data science, and robotics, it is essential that we better understand how it is that technology and society evolve. Without such understanding, we are assured of making dumb decisions. This book is an effort to develop such an understanding. It emphasizes the creative partnership and the coevolution of human culture and technology. Not to dismiss legitimate fears about the disruptive effects of technology, the real power of technology stems from its partnership with humans. We humans, with all our limitations and foibles, are central to its creation and nurture, and technology is central the progression of our society. Many technological developments are as much cultural as scientific, and human creativity provides the random mutations in a fundamentally Darwinian coevolution.
The book examines the question of whether technological advances are driven primarily by discovery or by invention. The question is important, because "discovery" presupposes preexistence of the facts that are discovered and abdicates responsibility for those facts. Invention, on the other hand, creates facts out of nothing and cannot escape responsibility. The book explores the ways that engineers use models to build inventive artificial worlds and to give us things that we never dreamed of before--for example, the ability to carry in our pockets everything humans have ever published. But in a yin-and-yang balance, the book also attempts to counter the runaway enthusiasm of some technology boosters who claim that everything in the physical world is a computation--that even such complex phenomena as human cognition are software operating on digital data. I argue that the evidence for this is weak, and the likelihood that nature has limited itself to processes that conform to today's notion of digital computation is remote.
The book goes on to argue that artificial intelligence's goal of reproducing human cognitive functions in computers vastly underestimates the potential of computers. Technology is coevolving with humans. It augments our cognitive and physical capabilities while we nurture, develop, and propagate the technology itself. Complementarity and symbiosis are more likely than confrontation and annihilation.
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