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Originally published Thursday, October 23, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Book review

"Rapture for the Geeks": Hello, Hal? The past and future of technology

Richard Dooling's new book "Rapture for the Geeks" is a rollicking and alarming new look at the future of technology in the wired world.

Special to The Seattle Times

"Rapture for the Geeks:

When AI Outsmarts IQ"

by Richard Dooling

Harmony, 260 pp., $22

I am likely one of the target readers for Richard Dooling's rollicking new book on the future of a wired world, "Rapture for the Geeks." I'm an average-to-heavy user of technology, someone who spends a fair portion of the day in front of a screen but who understands next to nothing about how it all works.

Dooling fills in the chasms of ignorance with clear and engaging explanations of the major "geek" concerns of our times, along with an alarming glimpse into the future. The author also provides a fascinating historical review of our longtime obsession with machines, and how advancements in technology led to the awful eventualities of atomic weapons.

As for the future, beyond new gadgets, the most intriguing advancement to come is the possibility of a computer that can think for itself. Given "Moore's Law," the doubling of computer processing every two years, the day is fast approaching when computers will surpass the intellectual power of the human brain. "Singularity" is the term used to describe "a period in the near future when information technologies will evolve so rapidly that they will transform the world in ways we can't possibly imagine... "

When this happens, some futurists like Ray Kurzweil believe computers will attain something like consciousness — challenging what it means to be human. Others vigorously disagree.

A novelist and lawyer by training, Dooling is a nimble and entertaining writer. He surely knows his stuff, but he sometimes tries too hard to please, employing hooks and gags instead of relying on the amply interesting topic at hand. And I found myself digging in my heels when he urged readers to learn programming languages to better prepare us for where computers are taking us.

Still, this book will take you places you have never visited or imagined, with Dooling as your trustworthy guide.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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