Steven H. Kim
Oxford University Press
New York, 1990.
Hardback, 273 pp.
(Reviewed, May 1998)

As occasionally mentioned in other sections of this database, it is possible to observe that human knowledge, as wonderful as it has become, possesses some Knowledge Gaps, Holes, Vacuums and Darkened Abysses. And in order to establish relevance to the central contests of this database, this phenomenon needs slightly to be entered into before going into the review proper.

The knowledge-gap observation doesn't refer to what has not yet been discovered on the frontiers of the yet unknown. It refers to human factors that have been around for a very long time -- such as, but not only, the factors regarding:

(1) the wondrous spectrum of human abilities;
(2) the qualities and mechanisms that result in power and power structures; and
(3) the nature and functions of intelligence.

These familiar factors have also been acknowledged as having crucial importance and meaning -- but for which very little in the way of exact, organized knowledge has accumulated. Thus, information about these factors can exist in disorganized and random ways -- and possibly include various amounts of cow pucky.

One somewhat easy way of identifying knowledge abysses has to do with becoming aware of encyclopedias that are missing within the overall knowledge pools. Ever since the Enlightenment, the educationally-minded among our species have devoted considerable efforts and enthusiasm to producing encyclopedias and compendiums that bring together, organize, list, describe, and detail everything that is identifiable and known about categories of phenomena. Encyclopedias in fact are database storehouses of cumulative information -- and they also represent the fuller extent in various categories of what is fondly referred to as "knowledge."

Thus, we possess encyclopedias or compendiums regarding just everything imaginable -- except, for example, a detailed encyclopedia dealing with power and its mechanisms is missing. Speaking only hypothetically, of course, this missing informative run-down regarding power might be explained (even justified in the minds of some) as a way of preventing any real understanding and learning about the "secrets" of power -- thus keeping the secrets out of the hands and minds of the many in favor of isolating them in the hands of the few.

In any event, a broadly accessible encyclopedia of power and its elements would certainly more widely increase understanding of power, its nature and mechanisms. But this would also increase the number of contenders for power -- and thus enlarge complications regarding power games and whom is to have power. After all, power has traditionally been thought of as something the few should possess, in order to have power over the many more powerless. Hypothetically, then, any in-depth encyclopedia of power might be considered a "threat" of some kind -- and so the best preventive against this is not to encourage the availability an encyclopedia of power.

Theoretically speaking, the spectrums of human abilities and intelligence can be thought of as having something to do with power. In actual practice, however, one might come to question this theory -- at least in the cases of those who achieve power but somehow fail to exhibit too much in the way of abilities or intelligence.

But it can be observed that if access to ability-enhancement is made available to the depowered masses, then those few in power would probably have novel problems to deal with. Along the same lines, encyclopedias that might result in enhancements of intelligence hypothetically might increase more wise observation and criticism of the powerful -- perhaps even help illuminate the nature of stupidity (for which, by the way, an encyclopedia is likewise missing.)

As it is (probably), ability and intelligence enhancement could be seen as "approaches" to power, and such approaches might be viewed as threats of no little consequence. If this would be the case, then approaches to power must be equally guarded as is power itself -- with the result that no competent encyclopedias regarding the approaches would appear either.

Needless to say, the superpowers of the human mind -- hypothetically also having something to do with abilities, intelligence and power -- don't enjoy an exhaustive encyclopedia. At least some of the reasons for this missing encyclopedia can be obvious.

If we could suppose, hypothetically, that development and enhancement of the biomind superpowers would introduce variables into the usual Earthside power structures, then those same power structures would view the superpowers with something less than enthusiasm. As it could turn out, the new superpower-endowed contenders would have "advantages" the unendowed did not have -- advantages such as mind-reading, paranormal spying, direct mental infiltration, enhanced foresight, clairvoyance; perhaps even psychokinesis that might be utilized to melt not only brains but also the usual armaments of physical weapons and learned stupidity.

However, the worst scenario might consist of the possibility that there could not be any SECRETS or SECRECY -- or behind-the-scenes dealing to the advantage of the powerful few and to the disadvantage of the powerless many. In any event, it is generally understood that secrecy has some importance to power, and so anything that might unmask secrecy is not viewed with enthusiasm.

One of the possible results of this hypothetical situation is somewhat amusing. As its history demonstrates, a species exists Earthside that possesses biomind superpower faculties. But that same species subtly (if not overtly) discourages any detailed knowledge of the faculties -- because any broad understanding and development of them might unsettle the status quo of the species vested power games.

If, then, any encyclopedic clarification and detailing of the spectrums of human abilities and intelligence were to take place, well, the reasons would have to be quite compelling. One such compelling reason, an easily recognized historical one, is economic profit via the establishment of new markets.

And such a compelling reason has recently taken place regarding INTELLIGENCE. And thus, with novel and significant markets in view, it has become imperative to organize, make sense of, and understand everything that is known, or can be known, about it. And hereby, an amusing tale commences -- and which roughly began some time ago with the concept of installing "intelligence" into machines. This is to say that intelligence has become a commodity -- at least as regards intelligent machines.

In its first conceptual incarnation, such an intelligent machine was dubbed as a "robot" -- defined as "an automatic apparatus or device that performs functions ordinarily ascribed to human beings or operates with what appears to be almost human intelligence." As of the 1990s, however, robots are no longer romantically termed as such -- that concept having been replaced by the concepts of artificial intelligence and smart (mechanical) systems.

The evolution from robots to smart systems has had its wondrous and uplifting techno-achievement aspects that have excited and challenged many fine research intellects. But it also has had a quite humorous aspect. This consists of the problem of installing intelligence into a mechanical system that is supposed efficiently to end up FUNCTIONING as a smart system all on its own.

If this problem is to be solved (and of course ultimately capitalized upon by marketing of smart systems) then it is necessary to understand and comprehend all possible details about what intelligence is -- this in order to more effectively and intelligently install it into smart systems, so that they can be smart in the first place. After all, it would be somewhat counterproductive to want to install intelligence into machines if one doesn't know the ins and outs of what is to be installed. There is really no point in installing dumb intelligence into hopefully smart ones.

Thus arose the problem of finding out what intelligence really is, what its mechanisms really are -- not so much as to enlighten and enhance humans about human intelligence, but in order to seize upon intelligence so as to install it into smart mechanical systems.

Now, this problem has two major aspects -- the first being that in order to entertain achieving the goal of what intelligence really consists of fundamentally, functionally and mechanistically, one needs somewhat to transcend theoretical approaches to it -- such theorizing equating to the scientific approach. Theories about intelligence didn't work all that well with robots.

The second aspect consists of a straight-forward technological approach -- i.e., in this case the study of natural, already-existing intelligence systems found in nature. If the intelligence mechanisms already existing could be understood and mechanically replicated, then the naturally-existing systems could be used as models regarding "how-to" duplicate and install similar intelligence systems into machines.

As it turned out by the early 1990s, one of the better models for naturally existing intelligence systems is to be found in the human being. The outcome of this discovery is that human intelligence, for the first time, is being intricately researched and studied right down to its quantum attributes.

The emphasis, perhaps, is not on what intelligence is, but on how it functions -- all this not particularly on behalf of enhancing intelligence in humans per se, but on behalf of translating human intelligence into smart mechanical systems with obvious, and enormous, economic prospects.

Even so, for the first time those humans interested in comprehending and perhaps enhancing functional knowledge of THEIR naturally-indwelling intelligence factors have a chance of benefiting from the encyclopedic itemization of human intelligence being utilized as a chief model to make smarter and smarter machines.

This possibility is, of course, both ironic and hilarious -- since the understanding of intelligence and its many astonishing mechanisms does have implications to enhancing the spectrum of human abilities, enhancing approaches to and development of power, and, as well, to the superpowers of the human biomind.

You see, it is possible to consider that knowledge only acts to the degree that it constructively feeds-back into intelligent systems that can comprehend and appreciate it. THIS feed-back loop would be a criterion in the case of intelligent machines, but it is also a function of human intelligence. And so discovered attributes and mechanisms of human intelligence being utilized as an EXACTING model for creating smart machines can easily feed back into the intelligence routes and systems of the model.

DESIGNING INTELLIGENCE: A FRAMEWORK FOR SMART SYSTEMS, by Steven H. Kim, was published ten years ago (in 1990). Dr. Kim probably did not intend his book to represent an encyclopedia regarding the nature and functions of intelligence.

But otherwise it is so well organized and detailed that it can easily stand in for such an encyclopedia -- not only for those focusing on the wondrous technological and economic potentials of smart systems, but regarding those smart systems that might, with attention, chance to read it. And in this sense, the cumulative and organized knowledge sense, the book cannot be dated or obsolete.

By way of review of this book, as stated in the blurb on the flap of DESIGNING INTELLIGENCE:

"Intelligent systems assume a critical role in society as computers continue to expand into scientific and technological fields as well as management and everyday life.

"Intelligent structures are used by biologists in modeling adaptive processes, by cognitive psychologists for exploring reasoning mechanisms, by engineers designing microprocessor-based devices, by industrialists in planning automated factors, and by strategists in developing organizational networks.

"However, the field of intelligent structures has lacked a systematic theory and even a coherent framework for conceptualization.

"In this book, Steven H. Kim [Prof. of Mechanical Engineering, and Director of the Knowledge Systems Program at M.I.T.] presents a systematic basis for analyzing and synthesizing natural as well as artificial intelligent systems.

"After defining the nature of intelligence and its attributes, he provides an overview of intelligent systems -- from biological entities to robots, automated factories and organizations.

"The book will interest all those involved with the challenges of today's technology and its future application, including students and researchers in artificial intelligence, computer scientists, practicing engineers, business managers, and research and development scientists in many fields."

This book should also conceptually interest, in self-feedback ways, anyone interested in activating and potentializing not only their own intelligence thresholds, but various biomind superpowers -- and which, as loosely considered, must be conceptualized as proceeding from some kind of intelligence systems.

It might be taken for granted that INTELLIGENCE is a quite involved, even awesome subject. This may be one of the several reasons its parameters have eluded philosophical, religious, scientific, cultural and sociological comprehension -- and which themselves are quite involved, and often principally based on bias, preferences and personal or social convictions.

DESIGNING INTELLIGENCE, however, presents information about intelligence from the viewpoint of inserting it into smart mechanical systems. This cannot really be done if comprehension of intelligence and its mechanisms remains cluttered with misinformation or liberal amounts of counterproductive cow pucky.

In other words, workers designing intelligence to be installed in machines need what amounts to encyclopedic knowledge of it, and in this sense must organize that knowledge in detailed ways. Dr. Kim's book has the advantage in presenting knowledge regarding intelligence in what amounts to organized encyclopedia-making methods.

The book is divided into five Parts, the first of which presents an "Introduction" and "Overview of Framework." Says the author: "A science of intelligent systems should consist of a series of layers for describing intelligence phenomena. These levels reflect a progression from the conceptual and qualitative to the rigorous and quantifiable."

He then proceeds to organize both the information and the reader's in-take of it by indicating (*) a framework for discussion, including a systematic set of concepts; (*) a model describing the relationship among the objects of the framework; (*) a theory consisting of a set of principles describing the fundamental behavior of such systems, as well as implication for their synthesis.

Part Two then breaks down, or apart, Factors of intelligent systems as to Purpose, Space, Structure, Time, Process and Efficiency. Part Three then considers Interfactor Trade-offs of Space versus Time, of Mechanism versus Process.

Part Four considers Application, mostly in the direction of creating smart mechanical systems -- but the considerations also can feed back into readers' smart system.

The book has six Appendices: A General Model of Design (which is pertinent to intelligent systems, even in the human models, need to undergo and be shaped by some kind of design; Predeterminism in Reasoning and Creativity; Axiomatic Approach to Design; A Formal Framework for Learning Systems; A General Model for Information; and, Levels of Intelligent Design.

On page 237 appears the following statements under the heading of Purpose: "The design of an expert system, as with other engineered products, begins with the perception of a need and its translation into a set of specifications. The purpose of a knowledge-based system is to liberate or assist a user in making decisions within a domain of applications. By incorporating knowledge from diverse sources, the performance of an expert program can match or even exceed that of humans. . . .

". . . enhanced capabilities are possible through the integration of knowledge from a spectrum of sources, including multiple human experts and heuristics from design manuals. Another mechanism for quality enhancement is through a systematic exploration of alternative designs rather than a straightforward dash for the first [apparently] satisfactory solution."

An essential, and very important by-product of this book is that it can be seen that human intelligence, existing naturally (or in a "raw" state) within our species and specimens of it, undergoes various "designing" in order to translate "raw" or potential intelligence into working within "a set of specifications."

Whatever else "a set of specifications" might imply (cultural, philosophical or sociological), the "set" implies limitations and boundaries, because without these the "specifications" cannot serve as specifications.

Thus, in the individual sense one's intelligence in its "raw" state may be very large, so to speak, but that it is likely to be "designed" into "specifications" that are much smaller. The likely outcome might then be that the intelligence of the individual will "work" or "perform" only within the constraints of the "designed set of specifications."

On page 201, the author points up: "An intelligent agent should be able to learn from its experiences rather than remain forever captive to its initial set of facts and inference procedures [i.e. captive to its initial intelligence or mind-programming.] In this way, the agent may break free of its original limitations, improve in performance over time, and perhaps even generate new results that might be labeled creative."

On page 180, Dr. Kim indicates: ". . . an intelligent framework should also facilitate its own development. This may be achieved by exploring tools for employing the framework against its own attributes [or designer set specifications] as illustrated in Appendix F.

"The six factors of intelligence -- purpose, space, structure, time, process, and efficiency -- satisfy these objectives. The appendices explore a number of these critical issues, and provide a glimpse of the road ahead in the systematic exploration of intelligence and its implementation in engineered systems."

One of the major "messages" of this book, one somewhat hidden, is that by utilizing their intelligence as a model to build smart mechanical systems, humans can test the workability of designed intelligence. And if it works in smart systems, then the workability can, so to speak, be reverse engineered back into human knowledge in order to efficiently redesign and enhance human intelligence systems.

This book is somewhat "technological" in places. But much of the information in it is accompanied and clarified by illuminative graphs and charts, and it can be read easy enough without becoming seriously defeated by its technological passages. It may be out of print by now, but it is well worth an effort to ask Amazon, etc. to find it. Various aspects of this book will be discussed in forthcoming essays to be placed in this database.

The overall "message" of this book is that former concepts about intelligence can be hauled to the cultural landfills -- that new age of understanding and enhancing intelligence has begun. In short, this book is TERRIFIC.