Skip to product information
1 of 1

Penguin Press

The MANIAC

The MANIAC

Regular price $26.60 USD
Regular price $28.00 USD Sale price $26.60 USD
Sale Sold out
Shipping calculated at checkout.
From one of contemporary literature's most exciting new voices, a haunting story centered on the Hungarian polymath John von Neumann, tracing the impact of his singular legacy on the dreams and nightmares of the twentieth century and the nascent age of AI

Benjamín Labatut's When We Cease to Understand the World electrified a global readership. A Booker Prize and National Book Award finalist, and one of the New York Times' Ten Best Books of the Year, it explored the life and thought of a clutch of mathematicians and physicists who took science to strange and sometimes dangerous new realms. In The MANIAC, Labatut has created a tour de force on an even grander scale.

A prodigy whose gifts terrified the people around him, John von Neumann transformed every field he touched, inventing game theory and the first programable computer, and pioneering AI, digital life, and cellular automata. Through a chorus of family members, friends, colleagues, and rivals, Labatut shows us the evolution of a mind unmatched and of a body of work that has unmoored the world in its wake.

The MANIAC places von Neumann at the center of a literary triptych that begins with Paul Ehrenfest, an Austrian physicist and friend of Einstein, who fell into despair when he saw science and technology become tyrannical forces; it ends a hundred years later, in the showdown between the South Korean Go Master Lee Sedol and the AI program AlphaGo, an encounter embodying the central question of von Neumann's most ambitious unfinished project: the creation of a self-reproducing machine, an intelligence able to evolve beyond human understanding or control.

A work of beauty and fabulous momentum, The MANIAC confronts us with the deepest questions we face as a species.

Author: Benjamin Labatut
Publisher: Penguin Press
Published: 10/03/2023
Pages: 368
Binding Type: Hardcover
Weight: 1.21lbs
Size: 9.29h x 6.31w x 1.20d
ISBN: 9780593654477

Review Citation(s):
Library Journal Prepub Alert 05/01/2023 pg. 4
Library Journal 07/01/2023 pg. 64
Publishers Weekly 07/17/2023
Kirkus Reviews 08/01/2023
Booklist 09/01/2023 pg. 43

About the Author
Benjamín Labatut is a Chilean author born in The Netherlands in 1980. He was raised in The Hague before settling in Chile, where he lives and works. He is the author of Antarctica starts here (2009), a short story collection, After the Light (2016), a series of scientific, philosophical and historical notes on the void, The Stone of Madness (2021), a diptych on madness, chaos and modernity, and When We Cease to Understand the World (2021), a book which explores the ecstasy and agony of scientific breakthroughs and has been translated into over 30 languages.

View full details