Bailey, James 1946–
Bailey, James 1946–
PERSONAL: Born 1946. Education: Brown University, graduated 1968.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Basic Books, 10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022.
CAREER: Worked for Digital Equipment Corporation; Thinking Machines Corporation, director of marketing, c. 1970s–94.
(Editor, with W. Daniel Hillis) A New Era in Computation, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1992.
After Thought: The Computer Challenge to Human Intelligence, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1996.
SIDELIGHTS: When James Bailey was a junior at Brown University in 1967, he became the first student at the school to have a computer in his dorm room. At that time, Brown did not yet have a computer department. A decade later, Bailey met W. Daniel Hillis, inventor of the 64,000-microprocessor Connection Machine, one of the world's first parallel computers. Together they edited a collection of previously printed articles about the new world of computer technology. Bailey also became director of marketing at Thinking Machines Corporation, where Hillis was chief scientist.
More recently, Bailey wrote After Thought: The Computer Challenge to Human Intelligence, which was called "a thoughtful, exciting preview of the dawning age of computing" by a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Bernard Sharratt wrote in the New York Times Book Review that Bailey's basic thesis is that "the days of sequential thought processes are mutating into an epoch of parallel mathematics inhabited by such strange creatures as genetic algorithms, cellular automata, simulated annealing—a math geared both to the demands of a world awash with information and to the capabilities of electronic neural nets. He builds an ambitious framework for this shift: a division of human history into epochs governed successively by the guiding concepts of place, pace, and pattern."
In After Thought Bailey identifies three revolutions, beginning with place. He writes that "people in the ancient world wanted to know where they were in relation to the universe. The math they developed to identify place was geometry." During the second revolution, physics displaced geometry as people began to concentrate on pace and the clock and the printing press were invented. Bailey writes that pace has "been the driving force of science ever since. To characterize reality with numbers and equations." The third revolution has as its basis biology and self-organizing systems; in essence, the search for patterns. Bailey first began to understand this process when he attended a presentation by Hillis.
In Fast Company contributor Alan M. Webber noted that when Bailey left his job at Digital Equipment to join Hillis, "he immediately confronted two mind-bending realities. The first involved Hillis's machine, which fundamentally changed the logic of computing. It not only accelerated computation, it also processed data in a new way, looking for patterns and learning. In short, it made itself smarter. The second involved experiments with 'cellular automata'—bits of information that operate according to a few simple rules. Inside of Hillis's computers, the cellular automata began to organize themselves and patterns began to emerge. In short, they acted as if they were alive." In his book Bailey predicts that computers will not only form scientific theory, but will also help us understand biological and cultural evolution.
Reviewing After Thought, Booklist contributor Bryce Christensen noted that the author "predicts that the mental abilities of a Copernicus, a Newton, or a Descartes will grow increasingly irrelevant in the coming decades." Choice critic J. Beidler concluded of the work that in "Bailey's thought-provoking gem" the author "proposes that we are just at the beginning of the computer age."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 1996, Bryce Christensen, review of After Thought: The Computer Challenge to Human Intelligence, p. 1639.
Brown Alumni, September, 1996, Chad Galts, review of After Thought.
Choice, December, 1996, J. Beidler, review of After Thought, p. 495.
Computer Shopper, December, 1996, Chris O'Malley, review of After Thought, p. 646.
Fast Company, October-November, 1996, Alan M. Webber, review of After Thought, p. 50.
New York Times Book Review, February 16, 1997, Bernard Sharratt, review of After Thought, p. 22.
Publishers Weekly, May 20, 1996, review of After Thought, p. 248.