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Beyond AI: Creating the Conscience of the Machine [Hardcover]

J. Storrs Hall
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 1, 2007
Artificial intelligence (AI) is now advancing at such a rapid clip that it has the potential to transform our world in ways both exciting and disturbing. Computers have already been designed that are capable of driving cars, playing soccer, and finding and organizing information on the Web in ways that no human could. With each new gain in processing power, will scientists soon be able to create supercomputers that can read a newspaper with understanding, or write a news story, or create novels, or even formulate laws? And if machine intelligence advances beyond human intelligence, will we need to start talking about a computer’s intentions?

These are some of the questions discussed by computer scientist J. Storrs Hall in this fascinating layperson’s guide to the latest developments in artificial intelligence. Drawing on a thirty-year career in artificial intelligence and computer science, Hall reviews the history of AI, discussing some of the major roadblocks that the field has recently overcome, and predicting the probable achievements in the near future. There is new excitement in the field over the amazing capabilities of the latest robots and renewed optimism that achieving human-level intelligence is a reachable goal.

But what will this mean for society and the relations between technology and human beings? Soon ethical concerns will arise and programmers will need to begin thinking about the computer counterparts of moral codes and how ethical interactions between humans and their machines will eventually affect society as a whole.

Weaving disparate threads together in an enlightening manner from cybernetics, computer science, psychology, philosophy of mind, neurophysiology, game theory, and economics, Hall provides an intriguing glimpse into the astonishing possibilities and dilemmas on the horizon.

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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."
ERIC S. RAYMOND

"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."
ROBERT A. FREITAS JR.
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.

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: #1,046,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A decent book on AI, a great book about Ethics 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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36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Ripping Good Read! May 21, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It's hard to express how much I am enjoying this book. The writing style is very active-voice and lucid. I'm sure there's a really good editor somewhere in this mix, but not even the best editor can rehabilitate turgid prose (witness the prose we all have to slog through in the vast majority of books on technical subjects). The editor of this book probably had the opposite problem: how not to get in the author's expository way.

I don't know the author personally, but I can tell you this about him: he is truly educated. In the classical tradition. By that I mean he has not only been a student of things technical, he has been a student of great writing, poetry, social science, economics, politics and more. It's not that he attempts to parade his knowledge in these areas; rather, it's that his strong liberal arts education, very naturally, simply permeates his expository style. More than that, he has the rare ability to present complex topics in a way that any curious reader can comprehend. Isaac Asimov, R. Buckmister Fuller, Richard Feynman, Freeman Dyson and Carl Sagan are the writers of which the author reminds me. And, like the erudite writers in that list, it is quite obvious that the author is truly interested (dare I say fascinated?) in the subject about which he is writing. His enthusiasm is contagious. Above all, he wants you to "get it."

I don't think I've read a book that was written this well and inspired me intellectually this much since I read R. Buckmister Fuller's "Utopia or Oblivion" back in 1968. That book changed my life. Now, forty years later, I find another book that is so well written and intellectually provocative that it may just change my life again. This is a fascinating book. You must read it. Seriously. J.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Need to make a movie out.
Published 23 months ago by Julia A Randall
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
Written by someone who has an instinct about how the future will turn out to be. I used this book to write my own futurist novel. Read more
Published on March 16, 2014 by Kieran
4.0 out of 5 stars Autogenous A.I.
This reviewer's first contact with robotic A.I. was Hans Moravec's "Mind Children" which I read in the late 1980's and which persuaded me that real A.I. was possible. Read more
Published on August 31, 2013 by Baraniecki Mark Stuart
4.0 out of 5 stars Great overview of artificial intelligence
J. Storrs Hall wrote a very insightful summary and popularization of the AI endeavor in his book, which might as well have been titled 'Before AI' because of its concise but... Read more
Published on March 27, 2013 by haig shahinian
5.0 out of 5 stars an engaging and broad overview of AI
To start, i believe this is a fantastic book for at least two types of people:
-the casual reader or scifi type who'd love a high-level, and well written overview of... Read more
Published on April 15, 2009 by Jonathan Scholz
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not Great
Maybe it's because I read it not long after reading Hofstadster's masterpiece "Godel, Escher, Bach", but I was slightly disappointed in Beyond AI. Read more
Published on September 16, 2008 by M. Richard
1.0 out of 5 stars Nonexistent phenomena
Before attempting to build the consciousness machine author must provide a proof that such phenomena is existing. Read more
Published on December 24, 2007 by Michael Zeldich
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine pick not just for libraries strong in computer studies
BEYOND AI: CREATING THE CONSCIENCE OF THE MACHINE discusses both the scientific and the ethical challenges of artificial intelligence, which is advancing so quickly that it holds... Read more
Published on October 6, 2007 by Midwest Book Review
5.0 out of 5 stars With Trepidation I Face the Unknown
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... Read more
Published on July 10, 2007 by Avid Reader
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