computers “think” by developing rulesnand procedures (heuristics) that structureninformation from a data base intonhuman-like knowledge. AI is somethingnof an analog to human thinking. Thenneurocomputer people are actuallynbuilding silicon chips that are an analognto the neural networks within our brainsnand are devising the procedures to enablenthem to work as such. AI can benthought of as two steps away from thinking;nneurocomputers are just one stepnback. And assuming that developmentsncontinue apace — for example, insteadnof silicon, genetic engineers could undoubtedlynprovide neurocomputer peoplenwith an organic substance — wencould find ourselves in a world whereinnthe “matrix” is, in a sense, tangible. Thenconcept makes the skin crawl — humannflesh, not that material grown in thentanks of the Nephrine Black Medicals ofnSterling’s Schismatrix.nWith few exceptions, SF tends to benescapist. Many — if not most — of itsncontemporary works have been subpar.nThis can be dated from the release ofnStar Wars. Some publishers, apparently,nfigured that if a space opera could makenmillions, then their techno concertosncould do pretty well, too. They failed tonrealize that it is the visual texture thatnmakes Star Wars, not the Force. But innspite of that, there has been the deluge ofnwould-be Skywalkers and sword-andsorcerynvariations on Tolkien.nCyberpunk SF is, in contrast, somethingnthat can result in thinking. Whennits writers are at their best, they are anvacuum-sintered amalgam of J.G. Ballard,nPhilip K. Dick, and William Burroughs;nradioactive heavy metals. Theirnwork is as disturbing as they seem to bendisturbed. In a very real sense, thisnrending of comfortable conventionsnserves a cautionary function. In a worldnwhere teenage West German hackersncan tap into NASA top secret data banksna continent away (through the “matrix,”npresumably), and a “well-meaning” geneticnresearcher can inject trees with anbioengineered product (he was reportedntearful when he had to cut the mutantsndown), writers that throw expectationsninto hyperspace and jar our bearingsncertainly deserve our attention.nAnd since they are hip, it’s all for thenbetter.nGary Vasilash is editor of Productionnmagazine.nPOLEMICS & EXCHANGESnOn ‘ScientificnAmerican Goes tonMoscow’nThe September issue of Chronicles wasnthe best ever. I was especially glad to seenPaul Gottfried’s analysis of Bloom’snbook, because my reaction to it was notnas ecstatically positive as that of manynother conservatives, and Mr. Gottfriednpoints precisely to reasons; i.e.. Bloom isn”at bottom a welfare state Whig,” and itnis the degradation of this Whiggery he isnlamenting, not the encroachment of thenstate on ever larger areas of humannfreedom.nBut the article that struck me the mostnforcefully was the one about ScientificnAmerican. I had never seen any criticismnoi Scientific American in any publicationnor by any person since I first subscribednto it in the late I950’s. I have alwaysncherished it as a unique and authoritativensource of scientific news and informationnaccessible, for the most part, to thenaverage layman. Some of the articles inneach issue were beyond my comprehension,nbut there were invariably enoughnthat were within my grasp to make eachnissue an adventure to be looked forwardnto. During the past seven or eight years,nhowever, I have become increasinglynirritated by an undisguised political biasnin the treatment of scientific issues of thenday. I began to notice this from thenmoment President Reagan was first inaugurated.nAuthors made flat statementsn(not conjectures or propositions to ben’ested) that Reagan’s strategic defensenwas unattainable; that the “yellow rain”nreported in Afghanistan and elsewherenwas in reality bee feces; that Reagan’sneconomic policies were causing povertynand economic decline; that (as ProfessornTomkin points out) increases in U.S.nmilitary strength in fact decrease U.S.nsecurity; and that a nuclear freeze wouldnbe beneficial to the U.S.nProfessor Tomkin does not make anynconnection between this leftward biasnthat has become more and more evidentnduring recent years and the fact that thenmagazine lost money “in the last year orntwo.” I wonder if there isn’t a connectionnthere. I do know that I myself havenbecome so increasingly irritated and offendednby these departures from a trulynscientific approach that I have beenntoying with the idea of canceling mynsubscription, and I wonder if othernreaders — and perhaps some advertisers—nare beginning to react as Inhave.n.•» ^nnnIn any event, this commentary hasnprompted me to make the decision I’venbeen putting off; I’ll give ScientificnAmerican another chance. The nextntime I see an article that allows a leftwardnpolitical bias to color the treatment of antechnical or scientific subject, as in thencases I have mentioned, I shall sit downnand write a letter to the editor, cancelingnmy subscription and explaining exactlynwhy. It’s the only way I can vote on thenissue, and I hope there may be othersnwho will be moved to do the same thing.n—John R. CassidynFairfax, VAnJANUARY 19881 51n