List By Jake Courage, co-founder of the edtech company, 42courses.com and avid reader, author & car fanatic
How concerned should we be about Artificial Intelligence? Regardless of whether you believe in a doomsday scenario or a more positive vision of putting your feet up whilst obedient robots attend to your every wish, the fact is AI is here to stay. And the pace of its development is accelerating. Whilst there is no consensus amongst the world’s experts as to how far away we are from AI surpassing human intelligence, it is clear that almost every industry is going to be affected in the near term by increasing reliance on AI technologies.
If you’re interested in knowing how the different scenarios might pan out and what you can do to prepare yourself for them, then these five books are a great place to start.
It’s pretty clear to whom the prize for the most alarmist title for a book about AI should go. Barrat’s agenda is clear from the start: we should all be very concerned about the speed of development of AI and its potential impact on humanity.
The author admits that he started off with a more accepting view of the potential benefits but, as he probed deeper, soon realised the importance of having a healthy skepticism about the future. This is a shared concern for many of the world’s top AI scientists, as well as Elon Musk, who named Our Final Invention as one of five books everyone should read about the future. As a counter balance to the techno-utopian view of ‘friendly’ AI, this book is worth your time. Even if it is a little frightening.
Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom
The focus of this illuminating read is whether or not we can solve the ‘superintelligence control problem’ before it’s too late. I.e. can we design AI in such a way that when it does overtake us, it’ll do so in a manner that’s benign?
As the author puts it, ‘…as the fate of the gorillas now depends more on us humans than on the gorillas themselves, so the fate of our species would depend on the actions of the machine superintelligence.’ As a New York Times bestseller, this book was key in fuelling the public debate about AI.
Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark
Tegmark is a professor of physics at MIT and a key AI influencer. His book examines both the near-future impacts of AI on topics as diverse as jobs, law and weaponry, as well as looking at how things might look once machines overtake human intelligence.
Whilst some of these scenarios like ‘1984’ and ‘Zookeeper’ don’t sound particularly appetising, Tegmark argues that without our involvement early on we will have little power to shape things in a more positive direction. Given he’s a brainy physicist, it is a bit heavy going in places, but the final two chapters about goal setting and consciousness make for a riveting read.
Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins by Garry Kasparov
At the start of his career, no computer programme could touch him. In his twilight years, the roles were reversed and his defeat by IBM’s Deep Blue in 1997 is considered a watershed moment in the development of AI.
It’s full of touching anecdotes and, as a reader, you’re left feeling that Kasparov remains in the optimistic camp despite the humbling personal defeat.
Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach by Peter Norvig
Fortunately, it’s also an accessible book for the layman and offers a comprehensive account of AI theory and practice.
It is probably the best book for those interested in starting at the very beginning and coming away with a strong grounding in this fast changing and century defining subject.
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