Listen free for 30 days

£7.99/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime

Summary

A jaw-dropping exploration of everything that goes wrong when we build AI systems and the movement to fix them.

Today’s “machine-learning” systems, trained by data, are so effective that we’ve invited them to see and hear for us - and to make decisions on our behalf. But alarm bells are ringing. Recent years have seen an eruption of concern as the field of machine learning advances. When the systems we attempt to teach will not, in the end, do what we want or what we expect, ethical and potentially existential risks emerge. Researchers call this the alignment problem.

Systems cull résumés until, years later, we discover that they have inherent gender biases. Algorithms decide bail and parole - and appear to assess Black and White defendants differently. We can no longer assume that our mortgage application, or even our medical tests, will be seen by human eyes. And as autonomous vehicles share our streets, we are increasingly putting our lives in their hands.

The mathematical and computational models driving these changes range in complexity from something that can fit on a spreadsheet to a complex system that might credibly be called “artificial intelligence.” They are steadily replacing both human judgment and explicitly programmed software.

In best-selling author Brian Christian’s riveting account, we meet the alignment problem’s “first-responders,” and learn their ambitious plan to solve it before our hands are completely off the wheel. In a masterful blend of history and on-the-ground reporting, Christian traces the explosive growth in the field of machine learning and surveys its current, sprawling frontier. Listeners encounter a discipline finding its legs amid exhilarating and sometimes terrifying progress. Whether they - and we - succeed or fail in solving the alignment problem will be a defining human story.

The Alignment Problem offers an unflinching reckoning with humanity’s biases and blind spots, our own unstated assumptions and often contradictory goals. A dazzlingly interdisciplinary work, it takes a hard look not only at our technology but at our culture - and finds a story by turns harrowing and hopeful. 

©2020 Brian Christian (P)2020 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

What listeners say about The Alignment Problem

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    11
  • 4 Stars
    2
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Performance
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    7
  • 4 Stars
    2
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    6
  • 4 Stars
    3
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Don't think machine learning's important? Read on.

Great overview of the current machine learning landscape and importantly how we got here. Useful sections on uncertainty and safety with strong concluding remarks on models in general. The map is not the territory.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for John C Mather
  • John C Mather
  • 05-11-20

A gender bias story; AI is incidental

Appears to be written by a gender warrior with an ax to grind, very unscientific.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Hila
  • Hila
  • 11-12-20

A must read to every data scientist👩🏼‍💻

This book is most definitely the best creation by Brian Christian. I’m speechless, and listened to the whole book in 6 days. This is a brilliant niche in AI, up to date, and fascinating. I cannot emphasize in words how much I enjoyed it (perhaps in a word2vec it’s the infinity vector?) And I can’t wait for Brian’s next audiobook.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Jessica Lindquist
  • Jessica Lindquist
  • 28-11-20

Relevant and Engaging

This book provides background on critical issues facing our society. It is great to read a book that focuses on educating the audience, sharing ethical concerns and raising thought provoking yet unsolved challenges. Brian is a talented author that has yet again engaged me to learn more about the interaction between humans and machines!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for ehan ferguson
  • ehan ferguson
  • 16-11-20

Required reading for any AI course

Brian Christian’s holistic approach is approachable to wide audience both technical and otherwise. I read this book while also taking an AI course in college. This book alone easily surpassed what I learned in that course. That’s not even mentioning the methodological and philosophical knowledge picked up from this read. Brian Christian is easily the Malcom Gladwell of computational philosophy.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Philip Van Stockum
  • Philip Van Stockum
  • 15-11-20

Best overview of the topic I’ve read

This is an excellent overview of the field of machine learning - its history, the problems it faces as it is applied in the real world, and the potential routes for its (and our) future. I’ve read many layperson books on the topic in the past, and I learned a ton from The Alignment Problem. I now have a more complete understanding of the structure of the field and the technical framework it’s built on, as well as the what the technology can and so far cannot do for us. Equally of interest are the questions about human society that the book raises. Can we succeed at aligning AI’s goals with our own if we don’t really understand what our own goals are? Christian describes the current ideas for how this may be possible, as well as the ways in which AI has so far been highlighting moral questions that we didn’t even realize we were confused about. The amount of research that went into this book is astounding - Christian draws from interviews with the top figures in every aspect of the field. It’s written clearly and succinctly, in a way that should be accessible to any reader, regardless of their prior knowledge of the topic. It’s also narrated by the author in a clear and incisive voice. An overall fantastic experience.