Artificial Intelligence: An Illustrated History: From Medieval Robots to Neural Networks (Sterling Illustrated Histories) by Clifford A. Pickover — Book Review


Artificial Intelligence: An Illustrated History: From Medieval Machines to Neural Networks brings readers, as seen in computing, medicine, popular culture, mythology, and more, on a vast journey through the field of artificial intelligence. It outlines the journey of famous science author Cliff Pickover through the present and future of artificial intelligence. This fascinating tale takes readers on an extensive tour through the field of artificial intelligence, from medieval robots and Boolean algebra to facial recognition, artificial neural networks, and adversarial patches.

Clifford A. Pickover addresses historical and current applications of Artificial Intelligence in such varied fields as engineering, medicine, popular culture, mythology, and philosophy as he is in the line of The Math Book, The Physics Book, Death & the Afterlife, and argues that AI will develop from the sight of the enduring danger to humanity. In 100 illustrated entries, he provides an entertaining and informative insight into when artificial intelligence began, how it evolved, where it is going, and what it means for the future of human-machine interaction.


Award-winning author Clifford Pickover offers an amusing and insightful look at where artificial intelligence started, how it was produced, where it is going, and how popular culture represented AI. He has published over 50 books on subjects ranging from science and mathematics to religion, literature, and history, translated into a dozen languages. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Yale, and more than 400 US patents were awarded. He has about 32,000 followers on Twitter and three million monthly tweet views. The Neumann Prize was awarded every two years to his book, The Math Book, for the best book on the history of mathematics aimed at a broad audience. His other books include Death & the Afterlife and The Physics Novel.

This is an addictive walk through the artificial intelligence annals, showcasing nearly 100 built technologies between 1300 BCE and 2018. The chronologically structured in three short pages, but authoritative entries are accompanied by full-page illustrations and range from the mythological Lancelot's copper knights, TO the actual "da Vinci's robot knight, the Roomba from the terminator and Tic-tac-toe, backgammon, the Rubik's Cube, Jeopardy gaming to more serious face and voice recognition pursuits, autonomous robotic surgery.

Readers can find essential details about each subject's who, what, when, where, and how, plus public reception accounts and realistic implementations, if any. There are some familiar names: Aristotle, Tesla, ENIAC, Hal 9000; other examples, including The Steam Man of the Prairies, an SF novel published in 1868, maybe a little more obscure. Features include:

  • An index.
  • Cross-references inside the book to relevant posts.
  • Suggestions for more detailed reading choices.

This is a fun diversion for reading cover to cover, following traditional strands, or dipping into random pieces.

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