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Beyond AI: Creating the Conscience of the Machine Hardcover – May 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews


"Taking us on an eloquent journey through an astonishingly diverse intellectual terrain, J. Storrs Hall’s Beyond AI articulates an optimistic view – in both capability and impact – of the future of AI. This is a must read for anyone interested in the future of the human-machine civilization."
RAY KURZWEIL, AI scientist, inventor
Author of The Singularity Is Near

"An entertaining and very thought-provoking ramble through the wilds of AI."

"Hall argues that our future superintelligent friends in the mechanical kingdom may develop superior moral instincts. I'm almost convinced. I learned a lot from reading this book. You will too."
Author of "The Legal Rights of Robots"
and Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines

About the Author

J. Storrs Hall, PhD (Laporte, PA), the founding chief scientist of Nanorex, Inc., is a research fellow for the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing and the author of Nanofuture, the "Nanotechnologies" section for The Macmillan Encyclopedia of Energy, and numerous scientific articles. He has designed technology for NASA and was a computer systems architect at the Laboratory for Computer Science Research at Rutgers University from 1985 to 1997.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (May 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591025117
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591025115
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #958,112 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Peter McCluskey on September 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The first two thirds of this book survey current knowledge of AI and make some guesses about when and how it will take off. This part is more eloquent than most books on similar subjects, and its somewhat different from normal perspective makes it worth reading if you are reading several books on the subject. But ease of reading is the only criterion by which this section stands out as better than competing books.
The last five chapters that are surprisingly good, and should shame most professional philosophers whose writings by comparison are a waste of time.
His chapter on consciousness, qualia, and related issues is more concise and persuasive than anything else I've read on these subjects. It's unlikely to change the opinions of people who have already thought about these subjects, but it's an excellent place for people who are unfamiliar with them to start.
His discussions of ethics using game theory and evolutionary pressures is an excellent way to frame ethical discussions.
My biggest disappointment was that he starts to recognize a possibly important risk of AI when he says "disparities among the abilities of AIs ... could negate the evolutionary pressure to reciprocal altruism", but then seems to dismiss that thoughtlessly ("The notion of one single AI taking off and obtaining hegemony over the whole world by its own efforts is ludicrous").
He probably has semi-plausible grounds for dismissing some of the scenarios of this nature that have been proposed (e.g. the speed at which some people imagine an AI would take off is improbable). But if AIs with sufficiently general purpose intelligence enhance their intelligence at disparate rates for long enough, the results would render most of the book's discussion of ethics irrelevant.
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35 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Lee D. Carlson HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Hollywood and the science fiction literature has indulged themselves over the last few decades in the prospect of highly intelligent machines either taking over human affairs or in fact acting to completely destroy human civilization. Oddly, these scenarios presuppose that entities that possess high intelligence would engage in this type of control or violence. Possessing high intelligence is assumed to be uncorrelated with possessing a conscience, or even being inversely related to it. Such biases make for excellent movies and science fiction novels, but there is no evidence as yet that would support the notion that conscience is independent of intelligence, nor has there been a careful scientific study of the connection between the two. But even in some quarters in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), there are those who are worried about the prospects of intelligent machines unleashing havoc on human civilization. Are these worries justified, and if so, what can be done to thwart the construction of these kinds of machines? Can one indeed build a machine with a conscience or should such machines be built?

This book gives a realistic appraisal of progress in artificial intelligence and sheds considerable light on these questions. It is careful to distinguish between fact and fiction, between what has been accomplished and what has not, and it does so without falling into the trap of extreme skepticism, the latter of which seems to happen to so many who are deeply involved in AI research. Indeed, after an initial period of extreme confidence in research results, and a designation as "intelligent", the confidence wanes until it is eventually viewed as a "trivial" discovery or merely a "program.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on July 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
At some point we will realize all the chatter we hear about "I don't want things to change" or "I'll never augment my mind or body" or "Maybe we'll return to the good old days" is just that - enpty chatter. There is no turning back from that wondrous, terrifying future and the remarkable element about this whole discussion (as noted in the book) is the incredibly short time it has taken to arrive at this plateau. Starting with simple instinctal behavior, humans began to augment themselves - through culture, rough tools, domesticated animals and then reworking nature itself. The Industrial Age accelerated this push and now, 300 years later, we are on the cusp of an undefinable, magical future.

This is a fascinating read - in fact it should be a must read. We are not in the realm of science fiction any more and anyone who follows the daily "Kurzweil Technology Advancement Board" (my own term) realizes that the rate of advancement is ever-increasing almost daily as one discovery leads to an invention that allows yet another discovery - the wheel turns endlessly. What I especially liked were the serious discussions without exaggeration or wish-fulfillment, conservative time frames and realistic expectations. Implicit to any discussion of AI is an assessment of its past. One of the most informative parts of the whole book was the history of AI which is as much an evolution of ideas as it is technique, methods and machinery. We have gone form hoping AI could mimic humans to expecting it to surpass humankind. We read about both "hard" and "soft" AI, software and then that most important subject - the human qualities of AI.
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