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The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul


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About the Author

Rudy Rucker, Ph.D, is professor of computer science at the University of California at San Jose. He is best known for his popular books about science and consciousness, such as The Fourth Dimension, Infinity and the Mind, and Mind Tools.
The author of thirteen novels, Rucker is considered one of the core cyberpunk writers. His novels Software and Wetware each won the Philip K. Dick Award. Rucker has worked as a software engineer at Autodesk Inc., where he developed several software packages, including James Gleick's Chaos: The Software. And he was co-editor of the famed cyberdelic how-to book, The Mondo 2000 User's Guide to the New Edge. Rucker currently teaches game programming using his textbook, Software Engineering and Computer Games.
See Rucker's website http: // for a extended bio, complete list of publications, software downloads, etc.


In this immense and ambitious work, former computer science professor Rucker (The Fourth Dimension) speculates that life is a computation. He offers examples of everyday activities that are computational processes-speech, agriculture, hunting-as well as instances of computations found in nature and attempts to model those computations using cellular automata. He applies this view of life as computation to problems in physics and biology (e.g., DNA and genetic reproduction) and goes on to explore artificial intelligence and the application of computation to questions of society. The "lifebox" in the title is a digital copy of a person's memory that would be hyperlinked and "give a reasonably good impression of having a conversation with you." Though Rucker ultimately sees the world as beyond computation, he convincingly argues that the computational view can shed perspective on reality. Including many examples from the history of computing, this dense and challenging read is recommended for science collections in larger public and academic libraries.-Garrett Eastman, Rowland Inst. at Harvard Univ. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Timothy Leary meets Bill Gates in this muddled book, part memoir of a life spent teaching mathematical logic, part history of computer science, but mostly a long, strange quest for the meaning of life. UC-San Jose computer scientist Rucker argues that all of reality is a mathematical computation. Like most computation, physical reality-such as the wind driving leaves on a tree-produces "gnarly," interacting and nonrepeating patterns. Moreover, even human consciousness is computation, as shown by the lifebox. A device Rucker invented in one of his science fiction novels, it's a gadget that preserves an individual's life; to Rucker, a lifebox reduces a person simply to a computerlike device that uses software to access the personality. Yet, by the end, he decides that gnarly computation, though it might be the key to reality, doesn't hold the meaning of life, which is beauty and love. And individuals, he concludes, can be happy by "turning off the machine" and "opening their hearts." Rucker blissfully spouts his facile pop psychology, but most readers will be lost in the gnarled prose of computer science and bogs of poorly explained mathematical logic. Agent, Russell Weinberger. (Oct. 15) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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