As a technology writer, I find myself reading endless articles online every day. Staying up to date with the latest developments across all aspects of technology is integral for anyone working within the industry in general. Additionally, as you may know, I put together a weekly Artificial Intelligence email with the top news every week from the world of AI.
I’m therefore constantly eye-deep in AI news, but it doesn’t stop there. I also burn the midnight oil reading books about Artificial Intelligence, many of which come directly from the shelves of the TDMB office library (one of my favourite places to visit). I thought, therefore, it’d be a great idea to share with you my favourite artificial intelligence books as I read them. I’ll be updating it regularly as I find more!
Ray Kurzweil is the undisputed Elvis of the Singularity/Transhumanism movement. He is convinced that artificial superintelligence (AI that exceeds human intelligence) will be upon us by 2045. He is equally a champion of radical life extension (or ‘life expansion’ as he calls it).
The Singularity Is Near is one of Kurzweil’s most seminal works. It centres around the author’s predictions for the future as he sees it over the coming decades, including his views regarding the feasibility of ultimately reaching the point of ‘mind upload’ whereby we live forever in a Matrix-esque simulation.
A thought-provoking and mind-boggling work, I highly recommend it.
The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies – Erik Brynjolfsson & Andrew McAfee
This New York Times bestseller by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee is highly regarded for the way in which it reveals the true extent of the technological revolution in which we are living.
There are generally two types of artificial intelligence books, in my experience. There are the nail-bitingly negative ones, that paint the technological future as some dystopian wasteland. Then, there are ones that leave you positively excited about all the things that are to come. Rather than worrying about your children’s future, you feel a sense of peace, knowing that their standard of living will be better than your own. This book is the latter.
Garry Kasparov, you may remember, was the chess champion that was defeated by IBM’s Deep Blue back in 1997. Rather than disappearing into obscurity, Kasparov has used his experience as the springboard for a career as a spokesperson for artificial intelligence.
It is Kasparov’s view that we should be aiming to find ways in which humans and machines can collaborate to produce better results than either could achieve independently from the other. Through this, we resolve that anxiety about being replaced and, instead, think ahead to conquering upcoming challenges.
To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death – Mark O’Connell
This was one of the most interesting artificial intelligence books I read in 2017. O’Connell goes on a journey to discover the depths of the transhumanism movement, and boy, what a world he uncovers! From subdermal implants to cryogenics – and just about everything in between – this is a mind-boggling romp through the new American Dream – a race of cyber-humans that may mark our species’ next evolutionary milestone.
As I mentioned above, there are two types of artificial intelligent book. This one is not particularly optimistic in its viewpoint, with the author concluding that the meat machine that is the human body is somehow sacred. Nonetheless, there’s some serious food for thought here that you simply must devour.
The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World – Pedro Domingos
Domingos is one of the leading players in the world of machine learning. That is a sure sign that you’re in for a serious learning curve with this book. In The Master Algorithm, Domingos makes it clear the sheer extent to which algorithms run our lives, before going into some depth about the importance of and the ways in which machine learning is forming the fabric of the future.
As the book’s blurb states, “If data-ism is today’s rising philosophy, this book will be its bible”. That tells you pretty much all you need to know; this is an indispensable guide for anyone who wishes to learn about the complex and inspiring field of machine learning.
Humanity has always had a fascination with building a version of ourselves. The origins of AI, Zarkadakis argues, date back to ancient mythology, and can be seen throughout storytelling over time. Perhaps this urge to reproduce ourselves (in this way) is a primitive evolutionary trait, and Zarkadakis goes into depth exploring this notion and its evidence in archaeological, cultural and biological fact and conjecture.
He also argues against the idea of consciousness recreation (that we could create conscious AI). This incredible book raises a lot of pertinent questions, and seeks to answer still more. It is a truly wonderful, eye-opening book that cannot be recommended enough.
If you feel like getting all tinfoil hat, Elon Musk, Chicken Little, batshit paranoid about AI, then this is the book for you!
This book, despite feeling a bit hysterical at times, is a sobering look at where all our enthusiasm for AI could lead us. I read this book at around the same time that I watched the movie Transcendence, which might have been a very bad idea, as I subsequently spent months worrying about when the robo-pocalypse might strike.
That said, I do think that Our Final Invention is a real must-read, not just for its horrorshow value, but also to consider the worst-case scenario and inform your own opinions accordingly.
Before Artificial Intelligence gets round to destroying us outright, it’s going to steal all our jobs and render us completely helpless. That’s what Martin Ford reckons, anyway.
This is a subject that has, obviously, garnered significant attention recently, and not without good reason. Yes, there is a threat posed by automation, but most argue that it is not nearly as troubling or significant as books like Ford’s might suggest.
I don’t know what to believe, to be honest. But The Rise Of The Robots certainly got me thinking about the darker side of the debate.
Once again, we turn to Ray Kurzweil, and specifically his vision of a world in which humans and machines live side by side. Contrary to the view put forth in Zarkadakis’ book (above), Kurzweil is adamant that we will, one day, unlock the secret of consciousness.
This book is a dazzling and delicious rhapsody of the wonders that machine learning may have in store for us. Kurzweil’s enthusiasm and confidence are as infectious as they are (at times) far-fetched.
As odd as some of his assertions and predictions may seem, however, he always manages to carry you along for the ride, convincing you that everything he says really is possible.
As an avid fan of Bostrom’s 2003 paper on the simulation hypothesis (i.e. we all live in the Matrix) I was so excited when I heard that this was coming out that I immediately sent a frantic Slack message to James with the Amazon link and demanded we order it for the library immediately.
I have to say, it is the hardest read of any on the list so far. It’s pretty academic and I swear I made those wrinkles between my brows worse whilst reading it. Nonetheless, for tech heavyweights, Superintelligence is well-known for being one of the best.
Do you know of any top books about artificial intelligence that we should add to this list? Like I said, I’ll be updating this regularly, so if you have something to add, drop us a TDMB tweet and I’ll pop it in!
Equally, if you want to send me a copy of your own AI book to review, I would be more than happy to oblige.
Oh, and if you want to read some more stuff on artificial intelligence, then be sure to fill in the little form below to get added to my Sunday AI Review newsletter, in which I look at the latest news from the week in AI every weekend.