Sunday Book-Thought 144

Different eras, these changes suggest, don’t just produce different kinds of books. Each also generates new ways of treating books – more specifically, new assumptions about what aspects of these physical objects deserve readers’ attention. When my students notice how different an eighteenth-century sermon collection looks from a twentieth-century airport paperback, the difference between a laminated chemistry textbook and the electronic version on their laptop begins to look less unprecedented. In the other direction, though, they begin to see that electronic technologies are in fact creating something radically new. Digital tools may not be upending our reading practices any more drastically than changing forms of print did. What they are revolutionizing is our ideas about reading. In the process, they’re remaking the printed past.
Leah Price, What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading (New York: Basic Books, 2019), p. 33.


Sunday Book-Thought 143

When we compare the limited powers of conversation of the systems described in this book with HAL’s sophisticated performance, we can see how much has yet to be accomplished in the computational modelling of conversational competence. One thing should be certain, however: when we consider some of what is involved in designing a system which can communicate in natural language and in a human-like way, we begin to appreciate the complexities of the processes we normally take for granted every time we take part in a conversation.
Michael McTearThe Articulate Computer (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987), p. 226.