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Publisher's Summary

How will artificial intelligence affect crime, war, justice, jobs, society, and our very sense of being human? The rise of AI has the potential to transform our future more than any other technology - and there's nobody better qualified or situated to explore that future than Max Tegmark, an MIT professor who's helped mainstream research on how to keep AI beneficial.

How can we grow our prosperity through automation without leaving people lacking income or purpose? What career advice should we give today's kids? How can we make future AI systems more robust so that they do what we want without crashing, malfunctioning, or getting hacked? Should we fear an arms race in lethal autonomous weapons? Will machines eventually outsmart us at all tasks, replacing humans on the job market and perhaps altogether? Will AI help life flourish like never before or give us more power than we can handle?

What sort of future do you want? This book empowers you to join what may be the most important conversation of our time. It doesn't shy away from the full range of viewpoints or from the most controversial issues - from superintelligence to meaning, consciousness, and the ultimate physical limits on life in the cosmos.

©2017 Max Tegmark (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"This is a compelling guide to the challenges and choices in our quest for a great future of life, intelligence and consciousness - on Earth and beyond." (Elon Musk, founder, CEO, and CTO of SpaceX and cofounder and CEO of Tesla Motors)
"All of us - not only scientists, industrialists and generals - should ask ourselves what can we do now to improve the chances of reaping the benefits of future AI and avoiding the risks. This is the most important conversation of our time, and Tegmark's thought-provoking book will help you join it." (Professor Stephen Hawking, director of research, Cambridge Centre for Theoretical Cosmology)
"Tegmark's new book is a deeply thoughtful guide to the most important conversation of our time, about how to create a benevolent future civilization as we merge our biological thinking with an even greater intelligence of our own creation." (Ray Kurzweil, inventor, author, and futurist, author of The Singularity Is Near and How to Create a Mind)

What members say

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Irritating

I struggled to get through this one. An interesting topic but unfortunately lumbered with clunky writing and endless name dropping. A better title would be 'memoirs of an AI safety researcher'. Read Ian M Banks culture series for a much more riveting treatment of distant future AI and the various ethical issues.

23 of 28 people found this review helpful

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An accessible book on AI that left me optimistic

I loved the weaving of the realistic fictional story into the beginning of book, and i also appreciate that Tegmark is actively working on these issues of ai safety which made me optimistic by the end of the book (which is not usually the feeling I have at the end of a book like this).

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Confusing chapter# mismatch between audio & player

Why can't the app's chapter numbering sequence match that of the book, I.e. the text as it is being read?

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 12-02-17

Odd book with some good info

This is a odd book that seems to be lobbying the reader to accept, and get involved in, the AI Safety movement. There are lots of interesting ideas, many make sense, some are kind of odd. Others have pointed out Tegmark seems to believe it is both likely (and preferable) that we are the lone civilization in all the universe. It seems this is because if this distance between civilizations was small we certainly would have noticed other civilizations. I am not convinced.

As others have noted there is a lot of name dropping and self-congratulation in this book.

The author admits he is an unapologetic optimist which influences his writing in quite a few places. I prefer realists to optimists or pessimists.

Nevertheless this is a worth the time and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in AI and the potential dangers involved. One of the key issues is that many AI researchers ignore the safety issues as AI is currently so weak safety does not seem to be a realistic concern. Tegmark (and others) point out that AI could transition from weak-AI to super-intelligent AI in just a few hours or days. Thus thinking about AI Safety now is a good idea.

The narration is quite good with somewhat tricky material.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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A few interesting points in otherwise tedious book

Lots of name dropping and self-congratulations. The chapters on the physical possibilities of the expansion of artificial intelligence were interesting. Otherwise, it's a lot of vague definitions and superficial descriptions.

17 of 22 people found this review helpful

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Some of the future think will blow your mind

Liked the book in general. Still trying to figure out tho why I didn't love it because it's well done. The start of the book could be misleading.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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the most in depth query on ai I've come across

considers best and worst case ai scenarios. encourages readers to take an active part in shaping the future they wish to live in.

10 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Gary
  • Las Cruces, NM, United States
  • 12-14-17

Familiar and tediously superficial

Nothing in this book was original. All of the many topics covered in this book were covered in other books that I have read previously. There was definitely a tedious feel to each of the chapters. I think there is no more important or interesting topic then super AI and the author is right when he wants to highlight the topic, but, please tell me things I don’t already know.

The author started each chapter by telling me something that I had already knew, then he would tell me almost nothing more than what I knew, then he would summarize what he had said as if I had not already had read it elsewhere or within the chapter. Overall, the lack of depth of each topic presented made for a tedious presentation.

I’m not even bothered by the things I think he got wrong. He makes a categorical error on the nature of our feelings. He thinks of them as things or objects which give us our subjective reality (subjectivity is his standard for self awareness, consciousness). I don’t think our feeling our things. He also appealed to S1 (quick) verse S2 (reflective) memory states. He had brought that up right after mentioning Popper’s falsification criteria. I found that somewhat ironic because S1 S2 definitely fall into the pseudo-science realm because there is no experiment in principal that I could design that would refute that S1 S2 paradigmatic hypothesis. I had a lot of these kinds of problems with this book, but the book failed mostly because it was superficial and it did not give a compelling narrative to wow the reader.

There is no more interesting topic than super AI. It gets at the heart of what it means to be human, what our purpose and meaning is, what is consciousness, is there other complex life in the universe (yes, super AI relates to the Fermi paradox with self replicating von Neumann machines), and even whether or not we are living within a simulation (by all means, check out Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ‘are we living in a simulation’ hosted debate. It is well worth the two hours), and there is a way to tie Martin Heidegger into the discussion because his ready-at-hand, present-at-hand, and dasein schema means that solipsism is nonsensical and conscious (self aware) machines are not possible (his opinion, not mine), or one could mention Hegel in detail on these topics because of his relating the in itself to the for itself to the other (or in other words the subjective to the objective to spirit, or self awareness) but this author definitely didn’t have much philosophy behind him and it showed by his lack of depth regarding philosophy or philosophy of science.

I have a weakness for books about AI. There should be no way that they bore me, but this author did that by not being able to connect the dots and by only telling me things that were overly familiar and having no real philosophical background as a foundation. (Read Bostrom’s , or Kurzweil’s, or Pedro Domingos’ book, or either of Harari’s books. Each (except for Domingo) was mentioned in this book).

28 of 40 people found this review helpful

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Wow. Whooda thunk it? Great content made accesible

What does Rob Shapiro bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Great inflection and maintains interest throughout.

Any additional comments?

An amazing topic. Everyone should have a least a working understanding of this issue. It's coming (if not already here) whether we are ready or not.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great but second part is to scientific

First 50% of book makes it worth buying, absolutely good, but why in gods name change to such exaggerated scientific writing style in second part using 300 times 10^x and 10^y and comparisons nobody can grasp? It seems like another writer entirely. But the cause is absolutely worth it so, thank you for being part of the effort to make ai safe.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful