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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really neat book that will get you to think about very important issues
This may be a path breaking book. What will the world be like when Artificial Intelligence is at least as smart as people? James Miller uses some straightforward economics and gets predictions that will blow your mind. To Miller, short of a nuclear war the dramatic changes in society seem inevitable.

Increased life expectancy. People will find themselves less...
Published on October 12, 2012 by John R. Lott Jr.

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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Reading but Lacks any focus
As has often been the case, I find a book that I really enjoy and then look for another book on the same topic only to be disappointed. In this case, I was looking to read more about the singularity from the economic side after reading Ray Kurzweil's bestseller "The Singularity is Near." This book spends very little time discussing "Surviving and Thriving in a Smarter,...
Published on December 14, 2012 by John Schmelzle


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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Reading but Lacks any focus, December 14, 2012
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As has often been the case, I find a book that I really enjoy and then look for another book on the same topic only to be disappointed. In this case, I was looking to read more about the singularity from the economic side after reading Ray Kurzweil's bestseller "The Singularity is Near." This book spends very little time discussing "Surviving and Thriving in a Smarter, Richer, and More Dangerous World" as the title of the book would indicate. Therefore, it would be a good idea to know what the book is about before purchasing it. The book basically has three parts.

Part I Rise of the Robots: This part was somewhat interesting although, at the time, I felt it went off topic as to what a post Singularity world would be like. Most of the discussion was on the chances of an artificial intelligents (AI) taking over the world. He goes very deep into this topic discussing numerous scenarios in great detail on how AI could lead the destruction of humanity. (not what I was expecting)

Part II We become smarter without AI: This part really seemed to lose focus. The author starts out talking about IQ. He tries to tie IQ to economic growth and then starts talking about how IQ is genetic. He then talks about how people will use genetic engineering to increase the IQ of their children. He insists that the Chinese will start a program to create a race of super intelligent people. After this he starts discussing how drugs could be used to enhance a person's intelligence. I really started to wonder if this guy should be on ADD medication. Interestingly enough (and this is no lie) the author started to talk about how he started experimenting with different ADHD medications to increase his IQ. The author continued to discuss several other topics unrelated to a singularity including brain training exercises. At the end of this part of the book, he stated that he had stopped the ADHD medication because he found a special tea that worked just as well. (At this point I thought "Oh No now he is going to really start rambling!)

Part III Economic implications: This part really starts to discuss what I thought the whole book was going to be about. Unfortunately, this was probably the worst section of the book. I found his arguments unsubstantiated when discussing the economic impact. He also goes into great length trying to convince you that you should have your head cut off prior to your death and have it frozen. If you did this, he claims that you can be revived latter when medical technology advances. He specifics companies which will do this for you and the cost associated with it. It becomes almost like an advertisement.

I was debating as to whether I should give this book 2 or 3 stars. Despite my strong criticism, I did find most of the book rather interesting even if it was not what I thought I would be reading about. If you can get through the rambling and lack of focus of the author, and you find the above topics of interest, it might be worth reading.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really neat book that will get you to think about very important issues, October 12, 2012
This review is from: Singularity Rising: Surviving and Thriving in a Smarter, Richer, and More Dangerous World (Paperback)
This may be a path breaking book. What will the world be like when Artificial Intelligence is at least as smart as people? James Miller uses some straightforward economics and gets predictions that will blow your mind. To Miller, short of a nuclear war the dramatic changes in society seem inevitable.

Increased life expectancy. People will find themselves less willing to take physically risky jobs since you will now be giving up more years of expected life if you are killed. But won't that also mean that people will take greater financial risks because if they lose money on an investment, they will have more time to recover. (Note also that the cost of some types of violent crime will also increase and the cost of other crime may fall.)

Education. Miller argues that traditional education will gradual disappear as people can simply plug in a computer chip into their brain. Surely, for simply learning facts, why spend the time memorizing facts when a computer chip can provide you with more information than you could possibly memorize. One thing that Miller points out is surely right about: a lot of the educational investments that people have made will quickly become obsolete. He briefly discusses how education will change, possibly the emphasis will be more on learning how to better use the information that is available. Surely, AI improvements might also allow you to substitute raw computer power for this type of learning also. But for people who will be overwhelmed with all this information and possibilities, I can easily see schooling helping people cope with this power and using it most effectively.

Sex. Just a porn has replaced sex for some people today, will the effect be even greater when extremely human like robots can replace real people. Think "Blade Runner." If people find it easier to simply have "relationships" with robots and many men replace women with robots, what does that do to people's incentives? Do some men work to be successful to attract women? Read Miller's discussion on all this.

Jobs. Miller ably takes on fears that people have that there will be massive unemployment as people are replaced with machines. This is an old line of argument that we have seen when technological developments such as steam engines or cars or computers have come along in the past. Yet, when a bulldozer replaced fifty people with shovels, there were other jobs that they were able to do. As Miller indicates, the real threat here to advancements might be government regulations.

My discussion here barely skims the surface of the important issues raised in the book. But my suggestion is that people should simply read the book themselves.

I should note that some of the discussions weren't clear to me, but even in that case the important thing is the interesting questions that are being asked. For example, increased life expectancy could increase inequality. People who have saved up over a long period of time will have a lot more money than those who have spent their money as they have earned it. Miller raises other points indicating that inequality might actually decline. The net effect isn't obvious, though I suspect that with more opportunities inequality will increase. Another example involves property values. Increased life expectancy obviously works in the opposite direction as a reduction in the number of children, but what is the net effect? On the other hand, might it be that either the cost of raising children will fall or that the return from having children will rise?

There are other issues about how quickly these advancements will take place, but I read Miller's book as more of a discussion of the implications of these advancements than any guarantee that they will occur by a certain date. It seems plausible that these advancements will occur and what has been missing is a serious discussion of what side effects they will produce.

I have known of James Miller's academic work for a number of years. My guess is that after this book a lot more people are going to know who James Miller is.
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24 of 32 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dissapointing, November 11, 2012
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Mr. Miller somehow manages to take all the fun out of this absolutely fascinating topic. My biggest complaint is the astounding preponderance of unsubstantiated conjecture. The book reads like so much guesswork rather than a thoughtfully researched and carefully cultivated study. Many assumptions and estimations are stated as if they are fact with little or no explanation. In the style of a true economist the author often extrapolates and infers outcomes from incomplete and overly simplified models. While I understand the topic inherently deals in the hypothetical, any type of data points are few and far between and the narrative often digresses into irrelevant tangents and speculation. To add insult to injury the tone of the book is smug and pretentious with the author continually relating cheesy personal antecdotes, name dropping and even outright bragging about his supposed intellectual prowess. This is all truly unfortunate as what could have been a spectacularly intriguing examination comes off light on insight and rife with that brand of irksome arrogance so endemic to academics.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Adds some new angles to the Singularity hypothesis, November 1, 2012
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The idea of the Singularity has been under discussion since Vernor Vinge coined the term in 1993, but it wasn't until Ray Kurzweil's "The Singularity is Near" in 2005 that the debate really entered the broader mainstream. Unfortunately, in the seven years since, the debate itself hasn't progressed much beyond the original talking points. Kurzweil argues for the power of exponential growth in information processing and the downstream effects that will have on biotech, robotics, AI and nanotech. Critics question whether Moore's Law can continue, whether it's possible to reverse engineer the brain, whether neurons can be modeled in silico, etc. In many respects, the whole debate seems to be awaiting further developments in technology to clarify whose assumptions are right.

One of the topics largely MIA in this debate has been a rigorous look at the social and economic changes in the decades prior to a Singularity. Technologists tend to focus on the specific technologies that may or may not appear on that road, but few have brought a formal economics background to examine the effects on broader sectors like education, child selection, life insurance, etc.

As an economics professor, James Miller brings that disciplinary "lens" to the debate, and the field is richer for his contribution. I heard him speak at the 2008 Singularity Summit and found his talk to be one of the most thought-provoking because of his focus on societal implications and rational decision-making. Thus, when this book appeared, I was eager to learn more about how to think rationally about possible economic implications IF a Singularity transition is in our future.

On the plus side, Miller takes an admirably agnostic view on HOW the Singularity might appear. He properly focuses on the four different paths (AI, intelligence augmentation via genetics/nootropics, network effects, and man/machine mergers) and examines each one in turn. The book makes some new contributions (at least for me :>) in the depth with which he examines the eugenics scenario and how increased intelligence selection might be pioneered outside the USA. He also shares his own experiences with nootropics, discussing some of the pros and cons he's experienced with admirable candor.

On the negative side, there's far less here about the economic implications on existing industries and societal sectors than I'd hoped. In his 2008 talk, he made some great predictions about the declining value of formal education and rising expenditures on defense for a population that saw a Singularity coming in the near future. There was much less of these ideas here than I'd expected, and it's a missed opportunity.

Overall, I'd recommend this book for those who are already familiar with the existing Singularity debate. While not the most balanced review of the entire debate for someone who's completely unfamiliar and just getting started, it would make a terrific followup read as the 2nd or 3rd book for those who are just starting to explore these ideas.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Provocative topics, shallow analysis, May 29, 2013
By 
George Holbert (Oklahoma City, OK, US) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Singularity Rising: Surviving and Thriving in a Smarter, Richer, and More Dangerous World (Paperback)
There are certainly some interesting topics that are broached, but as the book ultimately descends to a sales pitch on cryonics, (which is not mentioned anywhere in the teases) I felt deceived by the author and frustrated at the time I wasted on it. Admittedly, the thin arguments are aimed largely at the layman, so it doesn't take that much effort to digest the message for an educated reader. But, my time and money could have and should have been spent on a book that makes a decent effort to deliver on its promises. Wish I had read the reviews instead of the cover before I purchased it...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good information for the common folk, February 26, 2013
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Patricia L. Stranahan (Hot Springs Village, Arkansas) - See all my reviews
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Tough reading in some places.....but, folks need to know about what's on the horizon. Worth the time..... Miller writes concisely and clearly.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Truly a MUST READ book for anyone remotely interested in what the future might bring!, February 19, 2015
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Brian (MA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Singularity Rising: Surviving and Thriving in a Smarter, Richer, and More Dangerous World (Paperback)
I can not rave enough about this book. I stumbled across it recently during the final months of nearly three years of research in preparation for writing my own book on the subject. (Well, partly on the subject. I plan to have three parts: first covering much of the basic science required to have an informed opinion on the issue, second on the singularity itself, and third investigating the biochemistry of aging and longevity with practical lifestyle options to increase the odds of the middle-aged living to see a possible utopia.) When I saw that it was written by an economist, it really caught my attention. My own background is in science (computer programming and organic chemistry) and most of the material that I have read on the singularity stems from authors with like backgrounds. I assumed (and my assumption was well justified) that an economist would bring a refreshing and unique perspective to the topic. Economists use mathematical models to predict collective human behavior. The author made good use of such insight in presenting various clear and well-thought-out scenarios involving the complex interactions between society and ever-advancing technology. Usually I find myself reading multiple books over a short time span, but this was a rare exception. From the moment I picked it up, it was the only book that I read until I completed it the following day.

I am very surprised that this book doesn't have an average star rating of five! In looking at some of the negative reviews I see some people complaining about speculative content. Well, of course, any book attempting to look even a single day into the future (let alone a few decades) contains speculative content! That doesn't in any way make it a frivolous endeavor. On the contrary, simply looking at long-standing exponential trends in technology should suggest to most thoughtful people that the time has come to start having these discussions. This book is to some degree an argumentative essay with multiple pathways explored and relative probabilities assessed. No singularitarian can predict exactly when or via exactly what path by which the singularity may come to pass. The merit of a given prediction is determined by the quality of the logic utilized in its construction and the clarity of presentation. In both of these regards, this book was a stunning success! I feel many people that don't give credence to the possibility of a technological singularity miss a very important point. There are many different paths that can get us there. I will postulate that within 100 years (and probably within SUBSTANTIALLY less time than that) one of two statements will hold valid: 1) The singularity (good or bad) has taken place or 2) society as we have come to know it has collapsed (perhaps resulting in the extinction or near extinction of our species). If both of these statements remain false for the next century it will be truly stunning... a total break of so many long-standing historical trends as to stretch the bounds of reason and probability.

I find that my friends that work in the field of computer science are much more amenable to the very real possibility of living to see the singularity. I grew up fascinated by computer technology through the late 70's and 80's during the advent of personal computing. I became a mostly self-taught programmer creating my own video games and performing simple experiments with AI by the time I was in middle school. Like so many budding computer scientists, I saw firsthand the wonders of exponential technological advancement as the power of the machine at my fingertips grew in leaps and bounds every few years with my next purchase or upgrade. I also learned that writing even weak AI was monumentally difficult... although almost certainly technologically feasible! At a very young age, long before I had ever heard the term singularity, the logical conclusion that these two facts would likely some day lead to an intelligence explosion seemed inescapable.

I also find it unfortunate that singularitarianism is often compared to a religion by some of its critics. The few similarities between the two are wholly superficial. Yes, they both proclaim a possibility of a very long or indefinite life (well, many religions do at least), but the methods by which they come to such conclusions couldn't be more different.

The Singularity Rising does an excellent job of presenting logical arguments in support or against various pathways towards the singularity and the possibility of negative or positive outcomes. Although I am personally very optimistic that the singularity will be of a positive variety, I realize that this is certainly not guaranteed. I had heard some of the concerns before, but the author now has me thinking more deeply about some of the finer details that could cause things to go awry. It was profoundly thought provoking.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the book was a careful analysis of the economic (and societal) effects that different pathways may incur and very specific and practical advice for taking advantage of this foresight. James Miller also makes a very reasoned argument in support of cryonics. I am keeping a close eye on the technology of cryonics. Once we can freeze and unfreeze a brain without destroying the tens of thousands of dendritic connections formed between hundreds of billions of brain cells I will give it serious consideration. Great advances have been made just in the last few years but I don't think we are quite there yet. Some frog species can freeze solid during the winter and then recover to full health because of a natural sugar-based antifreeze that prevents cellular damage. Does anyone know if there have been any studies to see if the recovered frog retains memory? I have not been able to find any data in regards to this. I'm not sure how practical it would be to even test the memory of a frog, but if this is possible and hasn't been investigated, I think it would make for a great research project with obvious cryonic implications.

With respect to the clarity of the book, I would like to point out that the author has a gift for analogy and certainly draws from his teaching experience as a college professor. (I can appreciate the value of analogy with 15 years of teaching experience myself.) I think someone new to the idea of the singularity will benefit from said analogies. I certainly found the economic analogies very useful as this is a field I have a very limited perspective on. I was debating if I should include a chapter in my proposed book on the possible economic effects that pre-singularity nanotechnology will bestow as we enter an age of abundance. I took great comfort to see that most of my ideas of economic impact were also held by the author.

About the only thing missing in the book was a clear background in the technological trends that lay at the heart of the singularity prediction. I am sure that this was purposeful as other books already cover this topic in detail (most notably The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil). Still, perhaps a brief discussion to help set the stage was in order.

I plan to buy a few additional copies of this book to distribute to some of my friends with the request that they pass the book on with like instructions. Society needs to realize that steering technological advancement (to the limited extent that we can do so) is of paramount importance. It may in fact be the most important debate in human history!
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful, far ranging view of AI and its consequences, October 20, 2012
By 
Bill y "Bill Yarberry" (kingwood, tx United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Singularity Rising: Surviving and Thriving in a Smarter, Richer, and More Dangerous World (Paperback)
Miller has done a masterful job of presenting potential futures resulting from exponential increases in intelligence - both human and machine. As a child in the 1950's and 1960's I worried about nuclear bombs; Miller has a similar worry about "seed" AI. The idea is that the first nation to reach a point where its artificial intelligence capacity (in a machine) can recursively improve its own cognitive abilities, will have a major competitive advantage (a head start on the resulting knowledge explosion). If we do not carefully program the seed AI to be "friendly", we'll be at risk. This is a wide ranging book. I read it in about four days, listening to part of it while driving to work. Miller is careful to explain both sides of an argument and, unlike some futurists, is not a talking head Pollyanna. His chapters range from technologies to augment human intelligence to "sex bots" who could potentially decrease availability for potential human mates (it seems out of character with the rest of the book that he does not discuss the flip side, from the female perspective). Of course, he also presents the potential for massive increases in wealth, health and fulfillment -- if things work out. This is a terrific read. Even if you think the concept of a singularity event is bunk, it is still worth reading for the many and entertaining side stories.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Horrible book, February 10, 2013
This review is from: Singularity Rising: Surviving and Thriving in a Smarter, Richer, and More Dangerous World (Paperback)
I don't often write reviews, except if I really hate or love a book. I hated Singularity Rising because the author is clearly ignorant of the subject, and he wastes his readers time with many silly arguments and discussions.

For example, instead of explaining to the reader current scientific advancements to propound the coming Singularity, he starts his premise from the point that the Singularity is a given outcome, and with that, he continues to explain the potential problems that the Singularity will bring with the economy, or moral questions.

My problem with this author's substance is that anyone could have made the arguments he made because they are not based on facts, but they are based merely on his opinion, and I don't fee like I learned anything, and I felt I wasted my time and money on this trash.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Fanciful, July 26, 2013
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This review is from: Singularity Rising: Surviving and Thriving in a Smarter, Richer, and More Dangerous World (Paperback)
In my experience predictions of how life will be 50 years in the future are wildly and laughably inaccurate. No doubt computer intelligence will grow, but I don't buy the intelligence "explosion." We are offered the alternatives of Everybody Dies and Utopia Unimaginable, so humankind must be very, very careful to ensure that the new machine intelligence is friendly. If the "explosion" occurs, the machine intelligence will be what it decides to be, notwithstanding man's attempts to ensure it is friendly. The book is entertaining at one level, but a tad over the top.
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Singularity Rising: Surviving and Thriving in a Smarter, Richer, and More Dangerous World
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