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.

Sunday Book-Thought 133

The whole position of the book as a medium of communication in modern industrial society is being challenged and even conventional ways of producing conventional books may be completely altered by new means of composition and what is now called ‘on-demand publishing’ whereby individual copies of books may only be fabricated as a need for them arises. The importance of technological developments in the media of communication cannot be ignored and the role of the book in modern society undoubtedly will be changed by new technology.
Yet, when one looks around the world and recognises that many countries are still only at an early stage in working towards total literacy, the role of the book becomes even more confusing. Some developing societies, especially in, for example, Africa and Asia, are still moving towards the use of the book, whereas others, especially in Europe and America, are wondering if they are moving beyond it. The ability to read is, of course, so obvious int he use of the book that those of us who live in advanced societies sometimes tend to overlook not only the widespread illiteracy  in many countries of the world but also the relatively recent development of what we like to think of as ‘literature societies’ and the non-use of literacy skills by many people in these societies.
Peter Mann, From Author to Reader: A Social Study of Books (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982), pp. 2-3.