New Release: Pamela McCorduck’s This Could Be Important: My Life and Times with the Artificial Intelligentsia

The ETC Press and its Signature imprint are proud to announce the release of Pamela McCorduck’s latest book, This Could Be Important: My Life and Times with the Artificial Intelligentsia.

In 1979 Pamela McCorduck published the first modern history of artificial intelligence, Machines Who Think. But as This Could Be Important shows, she’d been intrigued by AI for nearly twenty years before that. She’d first met AI when she was an undergraduate English major at Berkeley, and became steeped in the culture at Stanford and Carnegie Mellon Universities. While she couldn’t judge whether AI was sound science, or would ever move from the fringes to scientific respectability, she was confident that the people who pursued AI were some of the most intelligent human beings she’d ever had the joy to meet. Friendships with the AI founding fathers, first professional, and later personal, laid the foundation of her lifelong fascination with AI.

When she and her computer scientist husband moved to New York City, she joined various literary circles, but faced impossible battles to convince public intellectuals in the 1980s, the 1990s, and beyond, that AI could be important. Drawn from the journals she kept, she describes those battles candidly—losing a university tenure fight over Machines Who Think (which was later celebrated as influencing a generation of young researchers), being flayed alive in the New York Times and the New York Review of Books for her heresies. She writes how she was aghast and then contemptuous of one celebrity intellectual’s ignorance, dismayed by others for their unwillingness to try even to understand.

Yet AI is here, and so is she. If she once thought that pursuing more intelligence was as unequivocally desirable as pursuing more virtue, she awakened to what, as a student of the humanities, she should always have known—that any human endeavor brings in its train the sublime and the ridiculous, opportunities for great good, and risks of great evil. In this book she also ponders the present, where two global super-powers, the United States and China, have at their disposal a power never before seen in human history.  Neither one will get it right the first time. But with due caution, AI can be done right.

About Carnegie Mellon University’s ETC Press

ETC Press is a publishing imprint with a twist. We publish books, but we’re also interested in the participatory future of content creation across multiple media. We are an academic, open source, multimedia, publishing imprint affiliated with the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and in partnership with

ETC Press publications will focus on issues revolving around entertainment technologies as they are applied across a variety of fields. Authors publishing with ETC Press retain ownership of their intellectual property. ETC Press publishes a version of the text with author permission and ETC Press publications will be released under Creative Commons licenses. Every text is available for free download, and we price our titles as inexpensively as possible because we want people to have access to them. We’re most interested in the sharing and spreading of ideas.

About CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center

The ETC is the premier professional graduate program for interactive entertainment as it’s applied across a variety of fields. Our unique, two-year, Master of Entertainment Technology (MET) degree is jointly conferred by Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science and the College of Fine Arts.

The ETC was founded in 1998 with Randy Pausch and Don Marinelli as the co-directors. The faculty and staff worked together to articulate our academic mission which focuses on educational goals and creative development. And we also created an R&D Agenda exploring transformational games, innovation by design and interactive storytelling. Throughout, we work to prepare students to graduate as creative professionals.