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Humans Need Not Apply: A Guide to Wealth and Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence Hardcover – August 4, 2015

4.4 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Glimmers with originality and verve. . . . Others have raised these issues but Mr. Kaplan is unique in devising solutions.”—The Economist
(The Economist 2015-10-03)

“New technologies are poised to vastly increase wealth, but for whom? In Humans Need Not Apply, Jerry Kaplan makes a persuasive case that future growth may be driven more by assets than labor, and offers unique policy proposals to promote a more equitable future.”—Lawrence H. Summers, former US Secretary of the Treasury and President Emeritus of Harvard University
(Lawrence H. Summers)

“A crucial book for understanding the great challenge of our times, which is how people can learn to live wisely with ever-greater technical ability.”—Jaron Lanier, author of You Are Not A Gadget and Who Owns the Future?
(Jaron Lanier)

“Artificial intelligence will transform how we live and work. But how we use AI is up to us. We are lucky to have as gifted and experienced a thinker as Jerry Kaplan to guide us as we navigate through this new age."—John Doerr, Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
(John Doerr)

“Soon, Jerry Kaplan suggests from his perch at Stanford’s AI Lab, ‘synthetic intellects’ and ‘forged laborers’ are going to start changing the world in unpredictable ways. How can we make sure the benefits they deliver are broadly distributed? In this candid and informed take on the coming AI revolution—and how we might mitigate its problematic aspects—Jerry will have you thinking long into the night about a future that’s just around the corner.”—Reid Hoffman, co-founder/chairman of LinkedIn and co-author of the #1 NYT bestseller The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age
(Reid Hoffman)

“AI is creating enormous wealth, but there's no economic law that everyone will share in this bounty. As Jerry Kaplan masterfully explains, the great challenge is to harness these new technologies to deliver shared prosperity.”—Erik Brynjolfsson, co-author of The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies
(Erik Brynjolfsson)

“In a world where the popular perception of Artificial Intelligence is often driven by Hollywood fiction, it's refreshing to read such a realistic and insightful analysis to help inform public discourse about this important technology.”—Ron Moore, producer and screenwriter for Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica
(Ron Moore)

“A compelling, prophetic, and timely book from a leading technology thinker, Humans Need Not Apply is a must-read for entrepreneurs, scientists, policymakers, and anyone concerned about the promise and peril of artificially intelligent machines.”—Fei-Fei Li, Director, Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab
(Fei-Fei Li)

‘A reminder that AI systems don’t need red laser eyes to be dangerous.’—John Gilbey, Times Higher Education Supplement.
 
(John Gibley THES 2015-08-20)

‘Kaplan also sidesteps the usual arguments of techno-optimism and dystopia, preferring to go for pragmatic solutions to a shrinking pool of jobs.’—Emma Jacobs, Financial Times.
 
(Emma Jacobs Financial Times 2015-08-20)

“Well worth reading, especially by anybody who wants to go painlessly from a standing start to a pretty thorough grounding in a debate that’s only going to intensify in the years ahead.”—James Walton, The Guardian
(James Walton The Guardian 2015-10-03)

“An intriguing, insightful and well-written look at how modern artificial intelligence, powering algorithms and robots, threatens jobs and may increase wealth inequalities, by a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and AI expert.”—The Economist, "Books of the Year"
(The Economist 2015-12-05)

About the Author

Jerry Kaplan is currently a fellow at the Center for Legal Informatics at Stanford University and teaches ethics and impact of artificial intelligence in the Computer Science Department.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (August 4, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300213557
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300213553
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jerry Kaplan does for the future what Jared Diamond did for the past: He pulls together our human (or humanoid) fate in sparkling,often hilarious, prose.

Kaplan begins by offering the non scientific reader (me) a clear overview of the AI advances that are poised to make human workers obsolete--offering eye popping examples explaining how the pace of technology is destined to overwhelm the human landscape of life and work.

He then charts the changes that span FAR more than driverless cars. Mechanical robots (or what Kaplan calls "forged intelligences") will be more adept (and. of course, far more cost effective) than humans at performing every routine job from collecting our garbage to stocking our grocery shelves (and make those physical stores quaint relics of the past). "Synthetic intelligences" (machines that think and analyze information) will outwit humans at making complex diagnoses or writing legal briefs--automating out many of the hapless law school or medical students spending decades accumulating those mountainous student debts .

So far readers may be saying " I know all that stuff". Actually, you don't. The real gem of this book is that Kaplan CALCULATES how many people enter the workforce with those mountains of debt and compares their expected salaries. He analyzes the current employment situation for new law school grads and other "knowledge workers". He offers a wealth of data documenting how many jobs are going to be lost... beginning with that prime exemplar (AKA job wrecker), Amazon. I always wanted to know how Amazon evolved, the truth about this behemoth's business model, and how many jobs Amazon has automated out...
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Format: Hardcover
Jerry Kaplan book addresses some of the key issues of our time, ones that have long been of concern to me. In a nutshell, with all the marvelous technological advances, why are people working harder than ever? And precisely what are they doing? Kaplan drew me in by mentioning the 1964 World's Fair in New York, that I also attended... looking for that bright new world of tomorrow. That remains as elusive as ever.

Kaplan's background is the high-tech field, where he had responsibilities in a number of start-up companies. He is currently teaching at the Computer Science Department at Stanford, with a particular emphasis on the legal and ethical implications of artificial intelligence (AI). His book provides a background on AI, starting with the ambitious vision of John McCarthy in 1957. In numerous ways, computers are already "smarter" than people, so who needs the latter, as his title implies? The author also addresses income inequality - now somewhat of a "hot topic" - and how computers have facilitated the increasingly yawning gap between the haves and the have nots. He even did that straight line projection whereby all the wealth is concentrated in the hands on one person - and uses the same metaphor of ancient Egypt that I have considered. There is one Pharaoh, and the rest of us are busily building his pyramid, at least metaphorically.

To me the real value of the book are the numerous anecdotal chapters that relate some aspect of the increasing dominance of IT in the economy, with advantages to some, and disadvantages to others. Naturally there is a chapter on Jeff Bezos and Amazon. The data is what is truly important, and Bezos has been a master at realizing this, and implementing a business strategy based upon it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The first sixty percent of the book seems first rate and adds much new information based on the author's personal experience.

The weakest sections are when he discusses solutions to the inequality problems generated by advancing technology and wealth. Humans beings will be unevenly hindered by failing or outdated abilities and by the inadequate education of the working young.

His solutions to the inequality such as restructuring the tax code and the social security system seem well intentioned but entirely inadequate.

The book is certainly a worthwhile read and I give the author full credit for the effort. The best thing is probably that he describes the likely path of AI in a realistic way as it proceeds from ABS braking in cars to world domination.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an unbelievably vital topic, and Dr. Kaplan does a service by exploring the problems, and contributing his opinion of some solutions.

Dr. Kaplan implicitly identifies and feels out an inventory control problem in vocational education: Universities are producing mis-educated students faster than the workforce can consume them, with obvious resulting inventory buildup (showing up in not stacks of widgets, but stacks of unemployed workers). [See Goldratt's "The Goal".] At the same time, new-technology jobs are projected to go begging, unfilled, due to the mis-allocation of inventory (students who could have learned X but are stuck at A instead). Dr. Kaplan's proposed solution to this structural economic problem is a type of Kanban: Employers should post requirements for future jobs, in the form of vocational training loan sponsorships. Only that many students should be allowed to take those vocational trainings, in a one-to-one relationship. Then demand will be supplied efficiently, and there will be less wastage (of lives, i.e. unemployment).

This is an interesting idea, headed in the right direction, which should be explored further. Its surface challenges (employers want to hire today, but it takes 1-4 years to train a skilled student; there is no meritocracy in choosing which single students get selected for sponsorship; employers have difficulty projecting future needs beyond the next few quarters) can be polished out in version 2.

Dr. Kaplan unfortunately ties this Kanban system in with an ill-fated scheme to create new ways for students to take out credit by explicitly mortgaging their future earnings.
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