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Turing's Man: Western Culture in the Computer Age

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Trained in both classics and computer science, Bolter considers the cultural impact of computers on our age, comparing the computer to earlier technologies that redefined fundamental notions of time, space, language, memory, and human creativity. Surprisingly, he finds that in many ways the outlook of the computer age bears more resemblance to that of the ancient world tha Trained in both classics and computer science, Bolter considers the cultural impact of computers on our age, comparing the computer to earlier technologies that redefined fundamental notions of time, space, language, memory, and human creativity. Surprisingly, he finds that in many ways the outlook of the computer age bears more resemblance to that of the ancient world than to that of the Enlightenment. The classical philosopher and the computer programmer share share a suspicion of infinity, an acceptance of necessary limitations on human achievement, and a belief that results are more important than motives. Although Bolter fears that the growing use of computers may well diminish out culture's sense of the historical and intellectual context of human endeavor, he contends that the computer also offers new ways of looking at intellectual freedom, creativity, and the conservation of precious resources.


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Trained in both classics and computer science, Bolter considers the cultural impact of computers on our age, comparing the computer to earlier technologies that redefined fundamental notions of time, space, language, memory, and human creativity. Surprisingly, he finds that in many ways the outlook of the computer age bears more resemblance to that of the ancient world tha Trained in both classics and computer science, Bolter considers the cultural impact of computers on our age, comparing the computer to earlier technologies that redefined fundamental notions of time, space, language, memory, and human creativity. Surprisingly, he finds that in many ways the outlook of the computer age bears more resemblance to that of the ancient world than to that of the Enlightenment. The classical philosopher and the computer programmer share share a suspicion of infinity, an acceptance of necessary limitations on human achievement, and a belief that results are more important than motives. Although Bolter fears that the growing use of computers may well diminish out culture's sense of the historical and intellectual context of human endeavor, he contends that the computer also offers new ways of looking at intellectual freedom, creativity, and the conservation of precious resources.

41 review for Turing's Man: Western Culture in the Computer Age

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jag Bot

    captures the true motivation of programmers and the potential of computing. it helped me rediscover my original love for this field.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Maciek

    I found this in a second-hand book store, and I'm really glad I did. You may think that by 2015 this book about computers written in the 80's would be badly dated. The truth is, computers didn't change that much. They are still basically von Neumann machines and their impact on human beings from Bolter's philosophical perspective is simply getting more visible. A key term in Bolter's work is 'defining technology'. Every epoch has one - in the past these were mechanical clocks, steam engines, tod I found this in a second-hand book store, and I'm really glad I did. You may think that by 2015 this book about computers written in the 80's would be badly dated. The truth is, computers didn't change that much. They are still basically von Neumann machines and their impact on human beings from Bolter's philosophical perspective is simply getting more visible. A key term in Bolter's work is 'defining technology'. Every epoch has one - in the past these were mechanical clocks, steam engines, today, it's the computer. The human being used to be perceived mechanistically like a clock or an engine. Nowdays, a popular metaphor is to say that a human being is a very advanced computer. Bolter proposes to reverse this thinking. It's not the computers which are becoming more and more like humans, it's the humans who are becoming more and more like computers, and the outcome is Turing's Man. To support his idea Bolter explores the history of tools and technology, showing their influence on the behaviour and concepts of western societies. He also gives a quite exact sketch of how computers work, what they can and can't do. On the basis of this sketch, he manages to explain how Turing's Men handle with organising work, resources, information, etc. Bolter's line of thought is quite sober. He doesn't present himself as a great fan of AI or computer-like humans, yet one can't call him pessimistic. Technology influences us, but it won't turn us into emotionless robots. Turing's Man is more like a trend, a direction taken by the society. We don't have to allow computers to program us. It's the computers which should bend to our needs. It's a shame the book was written before the era of the Internet. I'd be happy to read Bolter's opinion on some more recent changes in technology as well.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Albert Yang

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    Josh Rowe

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