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Five Best Books To Read To Get Smart About AI

Here are five, recommended by scientists and authors who have immersed themselves in the subject. The recent eruption of artificial intellig...

Here are five, recommended by scientists and authors who have immersed themselves in the subject.
The recent eruption of artificial intelligence through online tools such as ChatGPT has prompted a frenzy of speculation about its future and ours. It’s still early days, yet AI is already writing coherent articles, answering complex questions—and getting better all the time at performing those and other tasks.

Will it save the world? Will it eliminate all but the most menial jobs? Does it mean the end of human primacy on Earth or even the end of humankind? What’s clear is that something important and unprecedented is happening. That’s one reason so many books have been written on the subject.

Here are five, recommended by scientists and authors who have immersed themselves in the subject, to help you understand how we got here and where we are going.

1) “Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid.” By Douglas Hofstadter.

"Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" is a captivating book authored by Douglas Hofstadter. Published in 1979, this Pulitzer Prize-winning work explores the deep connections among mathematics, art, and music with an emphasis on the concept of self-reference.

In the book, Hofstadter weaves together the works of three remarkable figures: mathematician Kurt Gödel, artist M.C. Escher, and composer Johann Sebastian Bach. Through their respective creations, Hofstadter explores fundamental concepts such as consciousness, intelligence, and creativity.

The title itself, "Gödel, Escher, Bach," represents the intertwining threads of mathematics, art, and music, metaphorically illustrated as an eternal golden braid. The book takes readers on a fascinating journey, drawing parallels between Gödel's incompleteness theorems, Escher's intricate visual illusions, and Bach's complex musical compositions.

Hofstadter employs a variety of literary devices, including dialogues, puzzles, and analogies, to engage readers in exploring profound philosophical and cognitive themes. He introduces concepts such as recursion, formal systems, and self-referential structures to illuminate the intricate connections between seemingly disparate disciplines.

Through "Gödel, Escher, Bach," Hofstadter challenges readers to ponder the nature of consciousness and the limitations of formal systems. The book encourages a deep appreciation for the beauty and elegance found in the interplay of logic, aesthetics, and creativity.

Notably, "Gödel, Escher, Bach" has garnered critical acclaim for its interdisciplinary approach and its ability to make complex subjects accessible to a wide audience. It continues to be regarded as a classic work that inspires readers to explore the intriguing intersections of mathematics, art, and music, and to contemplate the nature of intelligence and self-reference in our complex world.

These are some of the books that scientists and authors recommend for those who want to know more about AI.
Brian Christian, whose books include “The Alignment Problem: Machine Learning and Human Values,” cautions that “Hofstadter’s concrete predictions about the pace and limitations of AI progress have not aged especially well, but very few have, and the book remains a tour de force of both style and content and a moving tribute to human imagination and human consciousness.” He adds that this is “the book that made me want to write books.”

2) “The Age of AI: And Our Human Future.” By Henry Kissinger, Eric Schmidt, and Daniel Huttenlocher.

''The Age of AI: And Our Human Future" is a thought-provoking book authored by Henry Kissinger, Eric Schmidt, and Daniel Huttenlocher. This collaborative work delves into the profound implications of artificial intelligence (AI) on our society and the future of humanity.

Henry Kissinger, a renowned statesman and diplomat, Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, and Daniel Huttenlocher, an expert in computer science and AI, bring their diverse perspectives to explore the complex relationship between AI and human civilization.

In this book, the authors navigate the intricate landscape of AI, examining its potential benefits, challenges, and ethical considerations. They delve into the impact of AI on various aspects of our lives, including the economy, politics, warfare, healthcare, and privacy. By drawing on their deep understanding of technology and its societal implications, Kissinger, Schmidt, and Huttenlocher paint a comprehensive picture of the current AI landscape and its potential future trajectories.

Through their collective expertise, the authors provide valuable insights into the opportunities and risks posed by AI, shedding light on the ways it may shape our world and influence our human future. "The Age of AI" serves as a guide for readers seeking to grasp the significance of AI and its transformative effects on society.

Whether you are a technology enthusiast, a policy-maker, or simply curious about the future, this book offers a compelling exploration of the intersection between AI and our human existence. It invites readers to contemplate the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead as we navigate the rapidly evolving landscape of artificial intelligence.

3) “Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence.” By Kate Crawford.

"Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence" is a compelling book written by Kate Crawford. Published in 2021, this thought-provoking work sheds light on the often-hidden aspects of artificial intelligence (AI) and its far-reaching implications for society, politics, and the environment.

In "Atlas of AI," Crawford, a renowned researcher and scholar, explores the complex web of power dynamics surrounding AI technologies. She delves into how AI systems are not neutral but instead reflect and perpetuate existing biases, inequalities, and injustices. By examining real-world examples and case studies, Crawford exposes the systemic impact of AI on various aspects of society, including labor, governance, surveillance, and the environment.

The book also delves into the environmental costs of AI, unveiling the significant energy consumption and carbon footprint associated with the development and deployment of AI technologies. Through meticulous research and analysis, Crawford uncovers the planetary consequences of the rapid expansion of AI systems and calls for a more sustainable and ethical approach to their development.

With a critical lens, "Atlas of AI" challenges prevailing narratives and offers readers a comprehensive understanding of the complex forces at play in the AI landscape. Crawford's work urges us to question the social, political, and environmental implications of AI and to consider the ethical dimensions of its deployment.

By exposing the hidden power structures and shedding light on the broader impacts of AI, "Atlas of AI" serves as a valuable resource for policymakers, researchers, and concerned citizens alike. It encourages readers to engage in informed discussions and to envision a future where AI technologies are developed and deployed in a manner that prioritizes fairness, accountability, and sustainability.

4) “The Coming Wave: Technology, Power, and the 21st Century’s Greatest Dilemma.” By Mustafa Suleyman and Michael Bhaskar.

"The Coming Wave: Technology, Power, and the 21st Century's Greatest Dilemma" is a thought-provoking book authored by Mustafa Suleyman and Michael Bhaskar. This insightful work explores the profound impact of technology on society and the complex challenges it presents in the 21st century.

Suleyman, a prominent entrepreneur and co-founder of DeepMind, and Bhaskar, an experienced writer and publisher, combine their expertise to navigate the intricate intersections of technology, power, and ethics. In "The Coming Wave," they delve into pressing issues such as artificial intelligence, automation, data privacy, and the concentration of power in the hands of a few technology giants.

The book provides a comprehensive analysis of the dilemmas and trade-offs associated with the rapid advancement of technology. It examines how technological innovations have the potential to revolutionize industries, enhance productivity, and improve lives, while also posing significant challenges in terms of job displacement, privacy concerns, and social inequality.

Suleyman and Bhaskar offer a balanced perspective on the impact of technology by exploring both its promises and perils. They delve into case studies, historical context, and philosophical insights to provoke critical thinking and foster a nuanced understanding of the complex ethical and societal implications of technological progress.

"The Coming Wave" serves as a call to action, urging individuals, policymakers, and businesses to proactively address the dilemmas arising from technological advancements. The authors propose frameworks for responsible innovation and advocate for a more equitable distribution of power and benefits in the digital age.

By combining their expertise in technology and literature, Suleyman and Bhaskar provide readers with an engaging and accessible exploration of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. "The Coming Wave" invites readers to reflect on the choices we make as a society and to shape a future where technology serves the collective good while safeguarding fundamental values and human flourishing.

5) “Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation.” By Joseph Weizenbaum.

"Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation" is a thought-provoking book written by Joseph Weizenbaum. Published in 1976, this influential work explores the relationship between computers, artificial intelligence, and the human capacity for judgment and ethical reasoning.

Weizenbaum, a computer science professor and AI pioneer, critically examines the role of technology in shaping human interactions, decision-making processes, and societal values. In the book, he raises important questions about the limits of computer power and the ethical implications of relying solely on computational logic and algorithms for complex human affairs.

Weizenbaum argues that the reduction of human reasoning to mere calculation, as facilitated by computers, overlooks the nuanced and contextual nature of human judgment. He challenges the notion that computers can fully replace human intelligence and highlights the potential dangers of overreliance on technology without considering its societal and ethical consequences.

Through engaging anecdotes and thought experiments, Weizenbaum invites readers to reflect on the social and philosophical implications of the increasing influence of computers in various domains, such as healthcare, education, and governance. He raises concerns about the loss of human agency and the erosion of human values in a world increasingly dominated by computer-driven decision-making.

"Computer Power and Human Reason" serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us to critically assess the impact of technology on society. Weizenbaum's arguments and insights remain relevant today, as we grapple with the ethical dilemmas and societal challenges brought about by the pervasive use of AI and computational systems.

By emphasizing the importance of human judgment, empathy, and ethical reasoning, Weizenbaum prompts readers to carefully consider the role of technology in shaping our collective future. "Computer Power and Human Reason" encourages a thoughtful approach to the design and implementation of technology, urging us to ensure that it serves the best interests of humanity rather than undermining our fundamental values.