Sloppy Lifebox print, excellent read from Rudy Rucker


Annoying: pages 237 through 240 are shuffled in my print of The Lifebox, the Seashell and the Soul. Though not entirely surprising, the crumbly paper was an indicator of a sloppy edition. Maybe it is a collector’s item now. Mail me and you can have it.

I bought it about ten years ago, and recently reread Rudy Rucker‘s The Lifebox, the Seashell and the Soul It is a very interesting book, although it smells odd here and there.  

Rucker writes about Alan Turing that Turing ‘apparently was given to bringing home sexual partners he met in the streets.’ What does he mean with that phrasing? For historical facts on Turing, I prefer to rely more on Turing’s biographer Andrew Hodges who wrote the respectable biography Alan Turing: The Enigma. Hodges pictures Turing as naive in confessing his homosexuality (for that time), but also describes him to be rather restraint in getting involved in sexual relationships. What I am sure I haven’t read anywhere is that Turing would go skimming the streets looking for ‘sexual partners’ (sexual partners – is that really correct English?).

Also the idolizing references to Stephen Wolfram’s A New Kind of Science are unnecessary. Wolfram generously takes care of that himself.

Also, Rucker’s habit of regularly quoting his own Science Fiction stories to illustrate his theories begins to annoy me at some point. I understand his frame of reference, but he is not very scientific in this way of providing ‘proof’.

But, as said, the book offers a number of very interesting ideas and visions. I realize I sound so negative, but I really enjoyed the book.

Rucker confirms that Artificial Intelligence – the discipline in Computer Science – has not achieved a lot. After my personal introduction to scientific AI, I became very suspicious. I found it odd that AI was dealing with decision rules, (fuzzy) logic, and the like. And used this awful programming language Prolog. Wasn’t there anything better to focus on in Artificial Intelligence? Cognitive is hot these days, but is it really Artificial Intelligence? A step forward, probably.

Rucker describes the life box—a device that captures every aspect of your life. I’m not sure if he invented the concept, but it is the first time I saw it described in such a realistic, predictive way.

This book has become history. The lifebox is there. People like Cathal Gurrin are walking around with cameras and devices recording everything they do all day.

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