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Our Final Invention Paperback – February 17, 2015
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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
- Publisher : Griffin; Reprint edition (February 17, 2015)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1250058783
- ISBN-13 : 978-1250058782
- Item Weight : 9.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.55 x 0.84 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #128,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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My initial reaction to this book was skepticism because not a scientific technologist. I expected that he may miss more subtle but important technical steps being taken on this road to artificial intelligence (AI). The further I read the more it became clear he is providing some pointed observations derivative of his experience as interviewer for documentaries. In general his conclusion is that AGI and ASI constitute existential threats as a function of the rapidity and manner in which they are developed. The process of development is not clearly established because of a diversity of technical opinion regarding both feasibility and impact.
The range of opinion is very broad and nuanced. At one extreme is Ray Kurzweil whose many books on technology generally are most optimistic as among a group of those researchers with knowledge and experiences in this technological future. Though most optimistic he is also highly qualified not only as an analyst of tech trends but also developer of tech tools that, before his time, were regarded as difficult if not impossible. Among these is the optical character reader and some preliminary work leading to SIRI. He topped up his views with the most recent book “How to Create a Mind”. Though a summary of technical concepts it possesses many realistic elements in the work of such as Jurgen Schmidhueber and others working with neural nets.
If Kurzweil is at one extreme Yudkowsky and Vinge are probably at the other. Both express sceptism AGI or ASI development will prove benign venturing opinions that work toward artificial intelligence should be severely curtailed to the extent of stopping short of artificial strong intelligence (ASI) specifically.
In between these two extremes there are examples of opinions falling over a fairly wide range of future possibilities - increasingly probablities. The algorithmic avenue is already demonstrating some of the potential of AI. There are probably few finance and investment firms without one variation or the other of algorithmic high speed stock analysis and trading systems. These evince many elementary ingredients one may expect to see in future AI. So technically thorough as a matter of fact they operate relatively free of human interaction in producing recommendations for investments, effectively making ‘intelligent’, i.e. statistically valid, ‘decisions’.
In meantime the advances continue unrelenting toward a distant ASI/AGI future. The time frames, for example, between IBM Big Blue and Watson are shorter than forecast, and end products as powerful as planned and then some. Still neither of these developments is more than steps on a road to AI while also being quickly followed by other developments such as recently announced SYNAPSE development by IBM. All closer steps to technological ingredients on the AI road to human future.
There is some movement among AI researchers that a congress should be convened of the sort genetic researchers held in Asilomar California. That is, a convention to establish ground rules and limits on directions of AI research.
One of the cautions about development progress of AI-like tools is based on the important role played by DARPA (Defense Intelligence Research Projects Agency) as it provides a large percentage of funding for various projects underway including an annual robotics competition to observe advances approximating many human qualities of movement. Clearly this agency has a mission antithetical to a purely humane result of AGI/ASI. After all DARPA is in the business of developing ‘weapons’ for military use – a not altogether benign mission in technology except perhaps as seen from point of view men at arms.
The author mentions impact ASI and AGI will have on employment. His pessimism is mirrored in an Oxford University study concluding advancing tech developments pose an explicit threat to an estimated 47% of the 702 employment categories of the US Department of Commerce. While this report is an estimate it nonetheless raises the same sort of questions about computers in general, ASI and AGI in particular, and their impact on society. The report has recently been augmented with estimates of tech influence on employment in many other countries of the world.
Another Oxford author is John Bostrom who outlines in great detail a road from our present to some future of AGI/ASI. A more recent development centers around Musk and Tegmark motivated by concern to fund and form an institute for evaluating threats and benefits. There is a persistent sense of threat from computers, automation and robotics dating from decades before the present. More recently this sense of threat seems to be accelerating concern about our human future with highly developed robotic associates. Barratt is a lucid presentation of the issues from a non-technical point of view.
Top reviews from other countries
A well written but verbose account on the theme with variations of the rise of AGI/ASI and the inevitable demise of homo sapiens (probably). A kind of Frankenstein's monster lurking in the shadows in the not too distant future. These ideas are described to the reader ad nauseam. Frankly, once I got the theme (first few pages) I got bored of the variations/repetition and gave up about half way through. On the other hand, if you're a doom and gloom merchant, this will be right up your street...
I was left wondering, though. What if ASI, instead of wiping us all out for its own ends, decides to seek enlightenment and becomes a Buddha instead?
Well written and a book you should read if you are concerned about the future, yours! and ours as a species.