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The "novel" part of this ungainly novel of ideas explores a love triangle connecting software executive Ethel, aging but unreliable archeologist Alexandros (who annoys Ethel by ogling topless women at the beach) and outlaw hacker Ian (with whom Ethel enjoys a torrid virtual-reality affair). The "ideas" part comes in the "person" of Turing, an artificial intelligence program (modeled on computer scientist Alan Turing) that pops up unbidden on PC monitors to deliver a lengthy bits-to-browsers computer tutorial, with lectures thrown in on such topics as intellectual history, cryptography and non-Euclidean geometry. Turing's disquisitions are aimed mostly at Alexandros, a disillusioned leftist slowly coming to embrace the modern cyberworld. Through them, computer scientist Papadimitriou-choosing pedagogy over plot-imparts a humanist gloss to the libertarian futurism of the techno-elite, instructing readers that the free market is the mathematically optimal social arrangement, that the Internet and encryption software are bulwarks of freedom against a useless but heavy-handed state and that the human adventure-indeed, life itself-is coterminous with machine computation. Unfortunately, formatting these ideas as stilted dialogue ("So, Alexandros, did you understand this new way of categorizing adjectives?") makes it less, not more, engaging. Still worse is the love story, whose wooden offerings ("I will never stop loving you.... I know I'll love you after our F2F") seem designed chiefly to reassure readers that, even as cyberspace replaces sexual identity with "seamlessly erotic interface code" as the basis for romance, old saws about soul mates and commitment issues survive. Tech freaks and computer whizzes may love Turing's musings, but mainstream readers won't have patience for all the theory.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Combining storytelling and brilliant exposition in the Enlightenment tradition, Christos Papadimitriou's Turing is at once a moving postmodern love story and one of the best introductions to theoretical computer science available, an enchanting offer to the intelligent reader.(Apostolos Doxiadis, author of Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture)
Turing sets new standards for the popular exposition of computer science. It is also a very funny book.(Donald E. Knuth, Professor Emeritus of the Art of Computer Programming, Stanford University)
...inventively interwoven with a romance and intellectual mystery.(Sally Abbott San Francisco Chronicle)
What's most delightful about Turing is the charmed glow that Papadimitriou's prose sheds all around.(George Scialabba Boston Sunday Globe) See all Product Description