Computers Ltd: What They REALLY Can't Do

Front Cover
OUP Oxford, 2004 - Computers - 222 pages
The computer has been hailed as the greatest innovation of the 20th century, and there is no denying that these technological marvels have dramatically changed our everyday lives. They can fly airplanes and spaceships, route millions of phone calls simultaneously, and play chess with the world's greatest players. But how limitless is the future for the computer? Will computers one day be truly intelligent, make medical diagnoses, run companies, compose music, and fall in love?
In Computers Ltd., David Harel, the best-selling author of Algorithmics, illuminates one of the most fundamental yet under-reported facets of computers--their inherent limitations. Looking only at the bad news that is proven, discussing limitations that no amounts of hardware, software, talent, or resources can overcome, the book presents a disturbing and provocative view of computing at the start of the 21st century. Harel takes us on a fascinating tour that touches on everything from tiling problems and monkey puzzles to Monte Carlo algorithms and quantum computing, showing just how far from perfect computers are, while shattering some of the many claims made for these machines. He concludes that though we may strive for bigger and better things in computing, we need to be realistic: computers are not omnipotent--far from it. Their limits are real and here to stay.
Based on hard facts, mathematically proven and indisputable, Computers Ltd. offers a vividly written and often amusing look at the shape of the future.
 

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User Review  - fpagan - LibraryThing

A nice little popularization of the basic results of computability theory and computational complexity theory. Readable in polynomial time. Read full review

Contents

Whats it all about?
1
Sometimes we cant do it
27
Sometimes we cant afford to do it
59
The good the bad and the ugly
73
Unreasonable memory requirements
88
More on puzzles
103
Trying to ease the pain
119
More on Monte Carlo algorithms
132
Turning bad into good
157
Can we ourselves do any better?
191
Postramble
215
Copyright

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About the author (2004)

David Harel is the Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, and is incumbent of the William Sussman Professional Chair. He is a highly respected computer scientist who has carried out research in many areas of computer science. Hehas received a number of awards, including ACM's Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award in 1992, and the 1997 Israeli Prime Minister's Award for Software. His book, Algorithmics: The Spirit of Computing (Addison-Wesley, 1987, 2nd. edn. 1992) was the Spring 1988 Main Selection of the Macmillan Libraryof Science. He is a Fellow of the AMC and of the IEEE.