Cover of The Genie in the Machine by Robert Plotkin
The Genie in the Machine
How Computer-Automated Inventing Is Revolutionizing Law and Business
Robert Plotkin


280 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804756990


Excerpts and More

We have long considered inventing to be a uniquely human activity. But just as the assembly line automated the process of manufacturing, today's computers are automating the process of inventing. Software can automatically generate designs for everything from toothbrushes to antennas to automobile frames more quickly and inexpensively than ever before, thereby ushering in a new era of artificial invention.

Inventors will use artificial invention technology to boost their inventive abilities to previously undreamed-of heights, enabling small teams of inventors to compete with mega-corporations who insist on inventing the old-fashioned way. Even consumers will be able to use artificial invention technology to become inventors themselves. We stand poised to see the emergence of the "digital renaissance artisan"—a person who will have the ability to not only design new inventions at the touch of a button, but also to manufacture them automatically from the comfort of home. As Robert Plotkin reveals in this landmark book, our decisions about these inventions today will dictate who gets to control this powerful technology tomorrow.

Should inventions designed by software be patentable? Should the software that produces those designs be patentable? The Genie in the Machine offers the first-ever examination of the implications of artificial invention technology for patent law, the law of invention. Along with practical advice for inventors, high-tech companies, and patent lawyers, this forward-looking book provides concrete recommendations for reforming patent law in light of the growing importance of invention-automation technology.

About the author

Robert Plotkin is a patent lawyer specializing in patent protection for computer technology, with an emphasis on software patents. His clients range from individual inventors to Fortune 50 companies. He is a Lecturer at the Boston University School of Law and has written and spoken internationally on patent protection for software, computer ethics, freedom of expression in software source code, and electronic privacy. He is the founder of Robert Plotkin, P.C. in Burlington, Massachusetts, which has been named a "Go-To Law Firm for Leading Technology Companies" by American Lawyer Media.

"Plotkin's book demonstrates that computer-automated inventing is not an academic curiosity or fad, but rather a new way of inventing that will dominate the 21st Century and change how we invent—and how we think about inventing—forever."

—John Koza, Consulting Professor, Stanford University

"In this provocative and important book, Robert Plotkin offers a fascinating look at the future of invention. The Genie in the Machine belongs on every innovator's bookshelf."

—Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind

"We've entered the Artificial Invention Age, where programs can automatically synthesize new product designs given only a description of what's required. What's the invention here? Is it the new design? The program? The requirements? And which of these should be patentable? The Genie in the Machine lays out the choices for patent and invention policy with compelling clarity. It's an essential roadmap for anyone concerned with the future of innovation."

—Hal Abelson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology