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Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era Hardcover – October 1, 2013
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“A hard-hitting book about the most important topic of this century and possibly beyond -- the issue of whether our species can survive. I wish it was science fiction but I know it's not.” ―Jaan Tallinn, co-founder of Skype
“The compelling story of humanity's most critical challenge. A Silent Spring for the twenty-first century.” ―Michael Vassar, former President, Singularity Institute
“Barrat's book is excellently written and deeply researched. It does a great job of communicating to general readers the danger of mistakes in AI design and implementation.” ―Bill Hibbard, author of Super-Intelligent Machines
“An important and disturbing book.” ―Huw Price, co-founder, Cambridge University Center for the Study of Existential Risk
“Our Final Invention is a thrilling detective story, and also the best book yet written on the most important problem of the twenty-first century.” ―Luke Muehlhauser, Executive Director, Machine Intelligence Research Institute
“Enthusiasts dominate observers of progress in artificial intelligence; the minority who disagree are alarmed, articulate and perhaps growing in numbers, and Barrat delivers a thoughtful account of their worries.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Science fiction has long explored the implications of humanlike machines (think of Asimov's I, Robot), but Barrat's thoughtful treatment adds a dose of reality.” ―Science News
“This book makes an important case that without extraordinary care in our planning, powerful ‘thinking' machines present at least as many risks as benefits. … Our Final Invention makes an excellent read for technophiles as well as readers wishing to get a glimpse of the near future as colored by rapidly improving technological competence.” ―New York Journal of Books
“A dark new book by James Barrat, Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era, lays out a strong case for why we should be at least a little worried.” ―NewYorker.com
“You can skip coffee this week -- Our Final Invention will keep you wide-awake.” ―Singularity Hub
“Barrat has talked to all the significant American players in the effort to create recursively self-improving artificial general intelligence in machines. He makes a strong case that AGI with human-level intelligence will be developed in the next couple of decades. … His thoughtful case about the dangers of ASI gives even the most cheerful technological optimist much to think about.” ―Reason
“If you read just one book that makes you confront scary high-tech realities that we'll soon have no choice but to address, make it this one.” ―The Washington Post
About the Author
James Barrat is a documentary filmmaker who's written and produced films for National Geographic, Discovery, PBS, and many other broadcasters in the United States and Europe. He lives near Washington, D.C., with his wife and two children.
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Top customer reviews
Barrat claims throughout to be doing a service to humanity by trying to raise awareness in the general population about the dangers of artificial superintelligence (ASI). Be warned: he does not get bogged down in too much technical talk; instead, he approaches the subject from who he is: he's a documentary film maker. When I read this in the first few pages of the book I was startled, because I did not realize this when I bought the book, and I was hesitant about going forward. After all, I figured, he's not a writer, he's a filmmaker. What can he know about this subject?
But, fear not, Barrat pulls it off. Because, it seems to me, precisely because he is a documentary filmmaker. He approaches his writing like he would a documentary film. He's read widely and deeply on the subject, he's interviewed experts in the field, and he's gone to many different expert conferences; now he's reporting on what the experts think and what he's learned. He's painting pieces of a canvas to portray the whole story.
Topics Barrat ranges over as he tells this story include genetic algorithms, genetic programming, machine learning, and the singularity; and also nanotechnology and robotics/transhumanism, because these both are inextricably linked to the topic of AI. The big, scary issue in AI that he keeps coming back to are the four drives that any self-aware, self-improving, goal-seeking system will have: efficiency, self-protection, resource acquisition, and creativity. A knowledgeable layman will realize right away that those four drives--embedded in a machine that can "think" a thousand times faster than the smartest human being--means we could be building something that we cannot ultimately control.
His descriptions of genetic programming are particularly frightening. Code is programmed to solve a problem (input); problem gets solved (output); no one knows exactly how the machine solved the problem.
Barrat lays out a convincing case: we humans have some choices to make about the machines we make. Let's hope it's not too late.
Most recent customer reviews
I do not disagree that AI can get dangerous, but the way author explains, its...Read more
But really, it's great. It raises good questions.