March 28, 2005

Imp A is dead, Imp B is trying, and Imp C is just beginning

Yes, yes, yes (it seems my blog entries are becoming more positive due to starting with yes all the time-or at least that is what ELIZA would say), Galatea 2.2 was confusing at first, but after a while it started to spark my interest. I have to admit that I didn't quite catch on with the first 88 pages so I decided to read to 138 (until I finally got to some of the good stuff).

I just find this whole book hilarious that they came up with this idea over drinks. They were joking around, laughing at one another, drinking (yes, in a bar). This is where the whole idea derives. Funny, isn't it.

This idea is Implimination (Imp) A, Imp B. and Imp C. This is supposed to be a machine that can (correct me if I'm wrong--I am still having some problems interpreting this book) think for itself, as a human can. They want it to pass a Turing Test, which is where a human being would not know if they are typing to a machine or a human.

The first program, Imp A, had a problem with it. It was "dying of its own nostalgia" (Powers 79). As the book stated, "Implementation A sat paralyzed, a hoary, infantile widow in a house packed with the undiscardable mementos, no more room to turn around. Overassociating, overextending, creating infinitesimal, worthless categories in which everything belonged always and only to itself" (79). Wow, you got to love the personification in this book!

I did relate Imp A to Rick. At first, Rick was very attached to Imp A, and he did not want to move on to Imp B. Rick is always overexplaining/overanalyzing things, which was exactly what Imp A was doing. This is why I feel that it is a perfect comparison.

Imp B worked a little better than Imp A. An example of a conversation with this machine went along these lines (page 113):

Powers: John is a brother of Jim's. Who is Jim's brother?

Imp B: John.

Powers: Who is Jim?

Imp B: John's sister.


Powers: Jim eats an apple. The apple is sour. Jim throws the other apples away. Why does Jim throw the other apples away?

Imp B: Jim throws the apples away because the apples were given by John.

So as you can read for yourself, there happen to be some problems with this machine as well, but not as bad as Imp A. As stated on page 120, "B's problem was that it could manipulate idea tokens, but not ideas about those tokens." I find it interesting the problems these people are trying to overcome with these machines.

I was kind of distracted by the whole switching back and forth between autobiography work with story-telling. It seems as though Richard Powers wants everyone to know about his life on top of everyone knowing about this machine he is working on with Lentz.

To be honest, I am learning more about Lentz, C. and Diana more than I am of himself. And the names confuse the heck out of me. Who is named C. for crying out loud! What kind of place is named U.? Is he trying to keep this person and place a secret, (that's what it seems like to me) or is this really what he called them?

But you definitely have to appreciate this man's writing. It will confuse you to a point where you are so interested that you want to read more (yes, that may be why I read to 138). With all of the A. B. C.'s, it seems that this book has really taken shape.

I don't want to ruin this for the others in my class, but the best part (I think) about the book so far was when Diana and Lentz tricked Powers into thinking Imp C. really worked. She tricked him into believing that the machine thought on its own. Only until Diana said Rick's name into the speaker, the joke was no longer funny to Rick (well, not until later). I don't want to give too many details, but this was the highlight of this book (I repeat--so far).

Just as a quick comparison, I want to say that this experiment is a lot like Pygmalion's statue. I can understand how the cover on the front of this book ties in with the story. Pygmalion's statue is brought to life by the gods. Well, this computer game is as stiff and thoughtless as a statue, until the people bring it to life. It's almost as though this computer system Powers and Lentz are putting together is Pygmalion's statue being brought to life.

Ok--I promise that's my final thought. :)

Posted by Anne Stadler at March 28, 2005 07:58 PM | TrackBack

The switching from his life at the Center and his life with C. is confusing.

Sometimes, when Powers (as author) begins with a rather reflective and poetic comment, I had to jump ahead in the text to find out to whom he was referring. The themes from both his life's flashbacks and the "current" happenings in his life are similar.

Nice connections about the cover and Pygmalion, too. As I intimated in my blog, I came up with something entirely different, but it is open to more than one interpretation--definitely.

Posted by: Amanda at March 31, 2005 08:26 PM
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