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Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era Paperback – February 14, 2015
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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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 in Annapolis, Maryland, with his wife and two children.
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This book is full of information about the people, companies and processes behind emerging AI, and the coming singularity.
It is very well researched, very well formatted and perfectly written, the author is an excellent writer and organizer.
His book kept me up late at night, and kept me thinking for days.
I like the way he expresses his opinion, referencing facts and examples.
Just a great book. Highly recommend.
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.
Physicist Stephen Hawking writes that "In contrast with our intellect, computers double their performance every eighteen months. So the danger is real that they could develop intelligence and take over the world".
Computer scientist and professor Vernon Vinge writes that "Within 30 years, we will have the technological means to create super human intelligence. Shortly after the human era will be ended".
Our Final Invention is 267 pages of authoritative manuscript that is compelling, fascinating and beyond the fright stage.
The book's author on numerous occasions refers to "we" as if there exists a unified collective engaged in artificial general intelligence(AGI) or artificial super intelligence (ASI). The reality is that some 56 nations are currently in different stages of arcane artificial intelligence designs. They include antagonists such as North Korea, Iran and suicide regimes from the Middle East. Russia, China and the U.S. are the biggest players as is Israel.
The author believes that super computers fueled by nanotechnology will combine to produce ASI trillions of times more powerful than any human academic or intellectual resources. ASI has the potential to eliminate hunger, poverty, disease and even mortality but disruptions of global economies and politics will be in evidence as balance of powers are shifted. Unemployment dynamics will infect bank tellers, retail clerks,
travel agents, loan officers stock brokers....
Computer software designs are so complex, even incomprehensible, that failures are inevitable. The 1986 Chernobyl meltdown, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima were all designed by highly qualified professionals but with complex infrastructures. Under Singularity as computer speeds double with frequency while human intelligence is unchanged, perhaps the musings of Hawking and Vinge will prove to be prescient.
Our Final Invention is 267 pages of a very dark subject which not even a trace of a happy Betty Grable ending is to be found. My time has expired. Perhaps the final words were well expressed by Jaan Tallin, cofounder of Skype: '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'!
Most recent customer reviews
decent-good understanding of artificial intelligence. Its rather in depth and a very realistic portrayal of the future....Read more