http://www.computingreviews.com/review/review_review.cfm?review_id=146389

The preface to this book states that it is the author’s “attempt to explain why the process of creating technology, a process that we call engineering, is a deeply creative process, and how this explains why it has become so hot and competitive, making geeks out of the brightest young minds.” This is a large task, and we might expect to find a discussion based on examples from a large range of fields. But the material in the book is largely related to informatics, starting with some basic physics, then shifting to the design of circuits to support computation, and moving on to various advanced topics in computability theory. The breadth of the material demonstrates the breadth of the author’s interests, and the book covers a lot of ground, even if not quite as much as the reader might infer from the preface. The book includes examples of concise encapsulations of large ideas throughout. For example, the author observes that engineers make systems to match models, while scientists make models to match systems. He also believes that paradigm shifts--sparked by crises of complexity and opportunity--have been driven for the past 50 years by advances in digital technology, which is the principal focus of the book. The author brings a number of interesting aspects of computer science into the discussion, such as what it means to be effectively computable, what the undecidability of a problem means and the importance of the halting problem, the universal Turing machine, Gödel incompleteness, nondeterminism, and probability and possibility. The final paragraph states that computers can be expected to do a lot for humanity, but not without some costs. Thus it is important for nontechnical people to learn about computers, and it is for this reason that the book was written. The ideas that the author thinks should be more widely known are certainly important. This book varies in the level of detail and cogency with which the ideas are presented and discussed, but it certainly provides an accessible entry into a broad range of material.