Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe by George Dyson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I had an issue with this non-fiction, but also a whole lot of love.
So this is about the mathematicians who heralded the whole computer movement. You know, the OTHER, more disreputable and crazy smart people like Von Neumann, Gödel, and all the other nutters like Turing who ushered in the computer age from just a thought experiment into a hand-made lab and later into the co-authors of the nuclear age.
Yeah. THOSE crazy nutters. The ones that ran enough physics programs on their automatic machines to model nuclear explosions and bring about the bomb. Computers, and not the poor women (and a few men) who got paid to crunch math by hand for years, are the real reason we have the nuclear age. And also why we have genetic sciences.
Pretty obvious, I know, but still, these guys are some unsung heroes. Just programmers. Sheesh. Whatever.
The book is full of love. I love the people. And then there was a wholly appropriate section expounding on science fiction and the future of AIs and I LOVED that, too, especially the form a realistic alien might take.
So what issues did I have?
WAY too much time was spent on the schools. Early schools, history, blah blah blah. Sure. Colleges are important and such, but I lost my caring factor until a while after we were introduced to Von Neumann. And what an interesting guy he was! :)
A side issue I should have more problem with is the role of women in this non-fiction, but like real history, too much idiocy prevents half our population from having more active roles. I'm not too fond of how the women here were relegated to being facilitators, suicidal wives, or footnotes to Crick and Watson. But let's be real here. We have a horrible track record at pushing these people aside in reality, not just in history.
I can appreciate the minds SHOWN HERE while still wishing the other minds had a chance. It didn't diminish my fascination. I can have MORE fascination to spare elsewhere. :)
So. Maybe not the best non-fiction I've ever read, but I did learn a hell of a lot about the people who ushered in the computer age and it's quite a story. And honestly, it makes for a more realistic story than the others I've read that focused more on WWII encryption engines as the real focus and impetus for computers. Making nukes is pretty damn huge. And obvious. :)
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