As the world becomes ever more dominated by technology, John Brockman's latest addition to the acclaimed and best-selling Edge Question Series asks more than 175 leading scientists, philosophers, and artists: What do you think about machines that think?
The development of artificial intelligence has been a source of fascination and anxiety ever since Alan Turing formalized the concept in 1950. Today, Stephen Hawking believes that AI "could spell the end of the human race". At the very least, its development raises complicated moral issues with powerful real-world implications - for us and for our machines.
In this volume, recording artist Brian Eno proposes that we're already part of an AI: global civilization, or what TED curator Chris Anderson elsewhere calls the hive mind. And author Pamela McCorduck considers what drives us to pursue AI in the first place.
On the existential threat posed by superintelligent machines, Steven Pinker questions the likelihood of a robot uprising. Douglas Coupland traces discomfort with human-programmed AI to deeper fears about what constitutes "humanness". Martin Rees predicts the end of organic thinking, while Daniel C. Dennett explains why he believes the Singularity might be an urban legend.
Provocative, enriching, and accessible, What Do You Think About Machines That Think? may just be a practical guide to the not-so-distant future.
©2015 Edge Foundation, Inc. (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers
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"Don't even steal this book!"
I loathed this book. The moment I saw the title I bought the book and made it my next read. I love books on or about thinking machines and intelligence. I've listened to three of the other series of essays edited by Brockman, and in general I found them satisfying much as I find a good Las Vegas buffet, while I'm doing it I think it's the greatest thing in the world, but after I'm done I'm not sure it was the right thing to do.
There's no way they should have compiled these random thoughts about thinking machines into a book form. I'm not against non-experts opining on topic matters outside of their field of expertise, but at least they should give a little bit of thought on the topic before they submit an essay. I was insulted by the simplistic nature and the lack of thoughts that were put into most of the essays (and I'm really not easily insulted!).
I would have been better served by taking the money I paid for this "book" and going to a bar and buying a picture of beer and talking about thinking machines with three random strangers than I was by these essays.
My only real guess about this travesty of a book is that it was written by a computer program to prove that machines can't think, because this book gave me nothing (with very few exceptions, Sean Carroll, Nick Bostrom, and a couple of others had things to say).
By the way, have I mentioned how I really didn't like this book and really, really, really would not recommend it? Buy at your own risk.
"Slightly Better Than The Usual Compendium"
This collection of essays and blurbs has the usual mix of relevant, knowledgeable content along with a large proportion of the pointless, irrelevant, silly, or soap-boxing STUFF that should be trimmed by any good editor.
However, without the STUFF there would be, maybe, five or ten entries instead of the advertised & touted 150-odd.
But this ratio of 10 out of 150 makes this particular book that much better than the usual example of the genre.
Certainly: I am growing to despise these "what do 'important' Scientists think" books, because they all contain the disappointing revelation that many of the supposed "Important Scientists" can't or don't.
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