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Science world luminary John Brockman assembles twenty-five of the most important scientific minds, people who have been thinking about the field artificial intelligence for most of their careers, for an unparalleled round-table examination about mind, thinking, intelligence and what it means to be human.
"Artificial intelligence is today's story--the story behind all other stories. It is the Second Coming and the Apocalypse at the same time: Good AI versus evil AI." --John Brockman
More than sixty years ago, mathematician-philosopher Norbert Wiener published a book on the place of machines in society that ended with a warning: "we shall never receive the right answers to our questions unless we ask the right questions.... The hour is very late, and the choice of good and evil knocks at our door."
In the wake of advances in unsupervised, self-improving machine learning, a small but influential community of thinkers is considering Wiener's words again. In Possible Minds, John Brockman gathers their disparate visions of where AI might be taking us.
The fruit of the long history of Brockman's profound engagement with the most important scientific minds who have been thinking about AI--from Alison Gopnik and David Deutsch to Frank Wilczek and Stephen Wolfram--Possible Minds is an ideal introduction to the landscape of crucial issues AI presents. The collision between opposing perspectives is salutary and exhilarating; some of these figures, such as computer scientist Stuart Russell, Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, and physicist Max Tegmark, are deeply concerned with the threat of AI, including the existential one, while others, notably robotics entrepreneur Rodney Brooks, philosopher Daniel Dennett, and bestselling author Steven Pinker, have a very different view. Serious, searching and authoritative, Possible Minds lays out the intellectual landscape of one of the most important topics of our time.
Brockman (This Idea Is Brilliant, editor), founder of the literary agency Brockman Inc., devotes this entry into his series of science-oriented essay anthologies to exploring the frontiers of artificial intelligence. The 25 contributors come from a wide range of disciplines and include philosopher Daniel Dennett, psychology professor Alison Gopnik, and Skype cofounder Jaan Tallinn. While the authors disagree on the answers, they agree on the major question: what dangers might AI present to humankind? Within that framework, the essays offer a host of novel ideas. Several argue that AI has already become a hallmark of human culture, with genetics researcher George M. Church provocatively suggesting that modern, technology-using humans, when compared with Stone Age cultures, are already "transhumans." Other essays underscore the necessity for ensuring that advanced AI acts in alignment with human values, while science historian George Dyson explores the difficulties inherent in controlling the technology, ending with the unsettling observation that "provably good' AI is a myth." Readers will appreciate that the discussion is accompanied by intriguing explanations of AI development strategies, among them "deep learning," generative adversarial networks, and inverse-reinforcement learning. The combination of theory and practice makes for enlightening, entertaining, and exciting reading.