OVERRIDE

Pulse

The Coming Age of Systems and Machines Inspired by

Robert Frenay

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Pulse is not about dance music, not about heart rates--and not about electromagnetic fields. What it does describe is a sea change in human affairs, a vast and fundamental shift that is about to transform every aspect of our lives. Written in lively prose for lay readers, Pulse shows how ideas that have shaped Western science, industry, and culture for centuries are being displaced by the rapid and dramatic rise of a "new biology"--by human systems and machines that work like living things.

In Pulse, Robert Frenay details the coming world of
• emotional computers
• ships that swim like fish
• hard, soft, and wet artificial life
• money that mimics the energy flows in nature
• evolution at warp speed

And these are not blue-sky dreams. By using hundreds of vivid and concrete examples of cutting-edge work, Frenay showcases the brilliant innovations and often colorful personalities now giving birth to a radical new future. Along the way, he also offers thoughtful conclusions on the promises--and dangers--of our transformation to the next great phase of "human cultural evolution."


BOOK EXCERPTS

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Excerpted from Pulse by Robert Frenay. Copyright © 2006 by Robert Frenay. Published in April 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.
 
introduction
 
Many will see this book as a visitor's guide to a brave new world of cutting-edge advances and gee-whiz technologies. So I should probably point out that there are no new ideas in the chapters that follow. True, the extraordinary developments outlined here will be mostly unknown to the casual reader, but the ideas that inform them are nearly four billion years old. What we are witnessing, and what this book
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REVIEWS

Praise for Pulse

"Can genes trump machines? Frenay, a former contributing editor of Audubon magazine, sees a paradigm shift, with biology moving into the forefront of scientific progress. Bolstered by the use of computers, biological insights now influence human endeavors ranging from robotics to medicine to materials science, he avers. Instead of machine-age logic, with pollution as its inevitable end product, Frenay foresees industrial ecosystems in which the waste products of one manufacturing process become the raw materials of another. An introductory chapter summarizes the historical relations between mechanism and biology, leaning heavily on the Romantics' antipathy toward the analytical methods developed by Descartes and his followers. The author then looks at various areas in which the biological approach can be seen at work, drawing on interviews with leading researchers. Artificial intelligence, which began as an offshoot of behaviorist psychology, now concentrates on robots that embody the kinds of principles that appear to control simple organisms, e.g., an MIT robot that wanders around the builder's lab and collects empty soda cans. On a more downbeat note, Frenay states that industrial farming has steadily increased the role of chemical pesticides in crop production, but the bugs seem effortlessly to keep up, rapidly developing immunities to each new spray. Meanwhile, the pesticides end up in food and drinking water. A new "green revolution" hopes to end the cycle, replacing pesticides with organic methods of controlling bugs: viruses, fungi, bacteria and insects that prey on the pests. Eventually, businessmen will come to see that conservation is itself good business. At this point, the apparent conflict between environmentalism and the profit motive will disappear. In the long run, Frenay argues, that recognition will transform society. With a fair amount of utopian rhetoric, this account suggests that the new biology may well have legs."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Can genes trump machines? Frenay, a former contributing editor of Audubon magazine, sees a paradigm shift, with biology moving into the forefront of scientific progress. Bolstered by the use of computers, biological insights now influence human endeavors ranging from robotics to medicine to materials science, he avers. Instead of machine-age logic, with pollution as its inevitable end product, Frenay foresees industrial ecosystems in which the waste products of one manufacturing process become the raw materials of another. An introductory chapter summarizes the historical relations between mechanism and biology, leaning heavily on the Romantics' antipathy toward the analytical methods developed by Descartes and his followers. The author then looks at various areas in which the biological approach can be seen at work, drawing on interviews with leading researchers. Artificial intelligence, which began as an offshoot of behaviorist psychology, now concentrates on robots that embody the kinds of principles that appear to control simple organisms, e.g., an MIT robot that wanders around the builder's lab and collects empty soda cans. On a more downbeat note, Frenay states that industrial farming has steadily increased the role of chemical pesticides in crop production, but the bugs seem effortlessly to keep up, rapidly developing immunities to each new spray. Meanwhile, the pesticides end up in food and drinking water. A new "green revolution" hopes to end the cycle, replacing pesticides with organic methods of controlling bugs: viruses, fungi, bacteria and insects that prey on the pests. Eventually, businessmen will come to see that conservation is itself good business. At this point, the apparent conflict between environmentalism and the profit motive will disappear. In the long run, Frenay argues, that recognition will transform society. With a fair amount of utopian rhetoric, this account suggests that the new biology may well have legs."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Robert Frenay

  • Robert Frenay is a freelance writer and former contributing editor to Audubon magazine. Pulse is his first book. He divides his time between New York City and upstate New York. 
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Available Formats and Book Details

Pulse

The Coming Age of Systems and Machines Inspired by

Robert Frenay

  • e-Book

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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