80,000 words/2018 – UK & Commonwealth (Bodley Head), US (Counterpoint), Russia (Atticus)

80,000 words/2018 – UK & Commonwealth (Bodley Head), US (Counterpoint), Russia (Atticus)

Now You're Talking

The Story of Human Conversation from the Neanderthals to Artificial Intelligence
Trevor Cox

A revelatory journey down the path of the human voice that seeks to answer the question: how did we go from speaking apes to speaking to computers?

The invention of the phonograph marked a revolution in our relationship to sound. In this book, Trevor Cox follows the nursery-rhyme phrase ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ – recited by Thomas Edison in his original experiments – from the mind of the speaker to the mind of the listener, revealing the hidden complexity of what on the surface seems a simple everyday task.

Through an illuminating tour of the forefront of speech and hearing research, Cox aims to provide readers with a deeper appreciation of something most of us probably take for granted: the ability to converse. Most of us are unaware, for example, that speech requires a precise coordination of over a hundred muscles, with the laryngeal muscles among the fastest in the body. And because verbal communication is central to humanity, this is a book that takes in a dizzying array of realms including literature, philosophy, evolution, archaeology, psychology, neuroscience, physics, biology, linguistics and music.

Most important, it’s a story that must now also include computer science and artificial intelligence. Could a computer take the place of a future Edison or Shakespeare and invent new technologies or write literature that revolutionizes the world? Speaking and listening offer a window into one of the biggest problems in science: understanding the nature of consciousness. If we can create machines that are both creative and conscious, then this would call into question many of our most cherished and long-held beliefs, not least about the uniqueness of human intelligence.

Now You're Tallking is an original fascinating guide to human communication – past, present and future – from one of the UK's most gifted communicator's of science.