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Sidney Perkowitz


New Book





Sidney Perkowitz was born in Brooklyn, NY, and was educated at Polytechnic University, New York, and at the University of Pennsylvania. As Charles Howard Candler Professor of Physics at Emory University, his research on the properties of solids has produced over 100 scientific papers and books. He has been funded by most major governmental agencies and has served as a consultant to industry and to the U. S. and foreign governments.

In 1990, his interests turned to  presenting science to non-scientists via books and articles, the media, lectures, museum exhibits, and stage works. His popular science books Empire of Light and Universal Foam have been translated into six languages. He has written for The Sciences , Technology Review , the Washington Post , and others. Media appearances and lectures include CNN, National Public Radio, European radio and TV, the Smithsonian Institution, and the NASA Space Flight Center. He has written the performance-dance piece Albert and Isadora , and the stage plays Friedmann's Balloon and Glory Enough (in progress). His newest book is Digital People: From Bionic Humans to Androids.




New Book - Digital People: From Bionic Humans to Androids (Joseph Henry Press, 2004)

Robots—especially their most human-like incarnation, androids—by now are a staple of popular culture.  But in labs around the world, scientists and robotics experts are tinkering with the next generation of 21 st century beings, turning science fiction into science fact.  At MIT, for example, you can meet COG, obviously constructed of metal and wires, yet eerily human in its aspect.  While you're there, you can drop in on COG's “cousin”, Kismet.  With a friendly, sort of clownish in appearance, its body language will signal a change in moods, complete with lifelike frowns, smiles, and even laughter of a sort.  And if you happened by ROBODEX 2003 in Yokohama, Japan, you'd have had a chance to meet and greet with the smartest robots around – they walk, they talk, and are almost guaranteed to produce a hair-raising, gut-level reaction.  Because just as we connect to R2D2, Commander Data, and even the Terminator, the merest hint of human-like action or appearance in an otherwise artificial being, invariably engages us on a very deep and meaningful level.

Digital People examines the ways in which technology is inexorably driving us to a new and different level of humanity.  As scientists draw on nanotechnology, molecular biology, artificial intelligence, and materials science, they are learning how to create beings that move, think, and look like people.  Others are routinely using sophisticated surgical techniques to implant computer chips and drug-dispensing devices into our bodies, designing fully functional man-made body parts, and linking human brains with computers to make people healthier, smarter, and stronger. 

In short, we are going beyond what was once the stuff of books and films to create genuine bionic people with fully integrated artificial components – and it surely will not be long before we reach the ultimate goal of constructing a completely synthetic human-like being.  While we hope that we will produce a better humanity, we nevertheless harbor fears that our power to create will ultimately debase our own humanity. Certainly this God-like ability brings us face-to-face with a host of troubling spiritual, ethical, and legal dilemmas.

Science has long been the lens through which we peer into our future.  In Digital People , scientist and acclaimed author Sidney Perkowitz examines the achievements of contemporary science at the highest level, makes bold predictions about the evolution towards the next level of humanity, and contemplates what this development means for our vision of ourselves. This thoughtful and provocative book shows us just where technology is taking us, in directions both wonderful and terrible, to ponder what it means to be human.



© 2004 Colorado Café Scientifique