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Publisher's Summary

Robots may one day rule the world, but what is a robot-ruled Earth like?

Many think the first truly smart robots will be brain emulations, or ems. Scan a human brain, then run a model with the same connections on a fast computer, and you have a robot brain, but recognizably human.

Train an em to do some job and copy it a million times; an army of workers is at your disposal. When they can be made cheaply, within perhaps a century, ems will displace humans in most jobs. In this new economic era, the world economy may double in size every few weeks.

Some say we can't know the future, especially following such a disruptive new technology, but Professor Robin Hanson sets out to prove them wrong. Applying decades of expertise in physics, computer science, and economics, he uses standard theories to paint a detailed picture of a world dominated by ems.

While human lives don't change greatly in the em era, em lives are as different from ours as our lives are from those of our farmer and forager ancestors. Ems make us question common assumptions of moral progress, because they reject many of the values we hold dear.

Read about em mind speeds, body sizes, job training and career paths, energy use and cooling infrastructure, virtual reality, aging and retirement, death and immortality, security, wealth inequality, religion, teleportation, identity, cities, politics, law, war, status, friendship, and love.

This book shows you just how strange your descendants may be, though ems are no stranger than we would appear to our ancestors. To most ems, it seems good to be an em.

©2016 Robin Hanson (P)2016 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about The Age of Em

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    2 out of 5 stars
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An analytical book suited as a reference book

Struggled to finish it , reads more like a reference book than a straight read.

4 people found this helpful

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Beginning is engaging and worth the time.

Interesting thought experiment and I appreciated the author's careful consideration to justify the scenario he presented. I found the content slightly repetitive, or too "in-the-weeds," at times which lead to a longer duration that caused me to lose interest during the latter two-thirds of the book.

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30% of time me spent describing itself

The author spends almost as much time describing the structure of the book and structure of his research as he does talking about the ACTUAL content. I prefer books that tell me directly what they have to say, versus telling me ad nauseam HOW they are going to tell me about it. LOTS of wasted time.

8 people found this helpful

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Couldn't finish it

I couldn't finish it. It felt like it was never going to get to the point. That means a lot coming from me as I'll sit through just about anything.

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interesting but way too thorough

Great number if assumptions draws upon authors perception of Emulation robot society and behaviours.
Interesting concept, but too intricate in detail to be credible. Got boring in the details of Em societal workings.

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  • KA
  • 01-11-17

Just plain awful, some thing that could be said within 1 hour, unnecessarily and painfully prolonged.

within 1 hour, unnecessarily and painfully prolonged. The author assumes throwing big words around makes him sound interacting. The worst book on AI I had listened to so far.

4 people found this helpful

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Like nothing I've ever read before

Age of Em is an analysis of a potential dystopian/utopian future backed up by a truly staggering amount of evidence and research. Here's what others have said: "One of the great risks of futurology is to fail to realize how different societies and institutions can be – the same way uncreative costume designers make their aliens look like humans with green skin. A lot of our thoughts about the future involve assumptions we’ve never really examined critically. In Age of Em, Robin Hanson dynamites those assumptions. "Age of Em is whirlwind tour through almost every science and a pretty good way to learn about the present. If you didn’t already know that wars are distributed evenly across all possible war sizes, well, read Age of Em and you will know that and many similar things. "Age of Em shows you every part of what our weird incomprehensible posthuman descendents will be doing in loving detail. Even what kind of swear words they’ll use." -Scott Alexander, Psychiatrist and author of "Unsong" "When the typical economist tells me about his latest research, my standard reaction is ‘Eh, maybe.’ Then I forget about it. When Robin Hanson tells me about his latest research, my standard reaction is ‘No way! Impossible!’ Then I think about it for years." -Tyler Cowen Economist and author of "Create Your Own Economy"

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  • Nathan
  • 11-13-19

An ode to the same, in a changed world

Every minute of this book amazes with staggering failures of imagination mixed with far reaching insight. I presumed being imaginative and unimaginative were different modes of thought. If you think like that, you are in for a surprise. In Robin's world of Ems, people are the same, yet they accept work defining them. They can copy and model minds, but not significantly improve or remodel them. The juxtaposition of accepting some drastic changes, while simultaneously worshipping at the altar of same is jarring at first , but within minutes it is addictive. By the end of the book, you see the pattern of his perception. Robin's does not paint the future as a blank slate, to be gradually scaped into the artists intentions with deeper and deeper inscriptions, as technology enables such choice. Rather, he sees the limitations of competition, scarcity, hierarchy and selfishness go from strength to strength, come what may. The future is modelled here as: the present, stamped with history, painted further forward, deviating only where economic theories suggest. It's deliberate and consistent, but never boring. He reads slow with an overly repetitive rythmn to his voice, fix this by playing at 2.4x speed, and this becomes an asset, chunking phrases in tones. Until someone shows me a better treatment of this topic, this is a must read for anyone who cares about morality, possibility, or the future.

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  • Francis Murphy
  • 06-01-18

Tedious !!!!!!!!

A dull idea that was obviously laboured over for considerable time that could be distilled down to a "bit of an idea". I couldn't get beyond half way, and I'm someone who rarely gives up on a book !! I wished I could my awareness at hyperspeed to get through it in the nanosecond it deserves.