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Publisher's Summary

In the tradition of Michio Kaku's The Future of the Mind, acclaimed technologist and inventor Amir Husain answers the universal question of how we can live amid the coming age of sentient machines and artificial intelligence - and not only survive but thrive.

The future is now. Artificial "machine" intelligence is playing an ever-greater role in our society. We are already using cruise control in our cars and automatic checkout at the drugstore and are unable to live without our smartphones. The discussion around AI is largely polarized; people think either machines will solve all problems for everyone or they will lead us down a dark, dystopian path into total human irrelevance. Regardless of what you believe, the idea that we might bring forth intelligent creation can be intrinsically frightening. But what if our greatest role as humans so far is that of creators?

Amir Husain, a brilliant inventor and computer scientist, argues that we are on the cusp of writing our next and greatest creation myth. It is the dawn of a new form of intellectual diversity, one that we need to embrace in order to advance the state of the art in many critical fields, including security, resource management, finance, and energy. In The Sentient Machine, he addresses broad existential questions surrounding the coming of AI: Why are we valuable? What can we create in this world? How are we intelligent? What constitutes progress for us? And how might we fail to progress?

Husain boils down complex computer science and AI concepts into clear, plainspoken language and draws from a wide variety of cultural and historical references to illustrate his points. Ultimately, he challenges many of our societal norms and upends assumptions we hold about "the good life".

©2017 Amir Husain (P)2017 Simon & Schuster, Inc.

What members say

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting take on Artificial Intelligence

Written by a computer scientist, this book was quite informative, and had a good grounding on how AI will develop in to a Super Intelligence, which is rarely discussed in such a prevailing subject.

It is quite unnerving to think the pursuit of a strong super AI is analogous to the development of weapons with the prisoners dilemma logic, making it an arms race of sorts. The author might be quite right to think Pandora's box has been opened, and there's no going back.

This book is somewhat unique in its acceptance that Super Artificial Intelligence will surpass humans at every level and become sentient, but optimistic in its predictions of a benevolent AI.

A good book with a positive attitude towards what's coming.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Seminal book on an AI-enhanced future

Amir Husain paints a realistic picture of what the future looks like with AI pervading all aspects of society. This is a pragmatic and practical book about the future. Clearly a successful technologist and entrepreneur, Amir also dives into the philosophical and ethical questions which arise when considering how AI will be utilized in applications ranging from advertising to military. If you want to understand how AI is changing, and will transform, all aspects of human society, this book is a must-read(listen).

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Life Changing

Read this book and you will have hope in AI. Easily understood and mind expanding at the same time.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Gary
  • Las Cruces, NM, United States
  • 02-03-18

Enjoyable overall with good story telling

If a computer can ever just beat a human champion at checkers, then we’ll know they can think. No wait, better make that chess. No, no, we better make that the game of Go. Go needs intuition and only humans have intuition. Oh, never mind. Computers can never think or be self aware because that’s what most people say and the consensus just must always be right! For a mostly consensus defending awful book one can read ‘What do you think about machines that think’ available at Audible, but I really don’t recommend it.

Well this book lays out a contra road map of how it’s currently happening and speculates on why it will happen with certainty and how fool hardy it will be to deny it or try to outlaw it. The future is going to happen regardless of how one wants to control it.

The author is very good at telling stories. As he telling his stories, gems kept popping up. For example, when a doctor doesn’t know how to solve what ails you, they’ll end up doing one of three things: 1) give you a steroid to treat a possible inflammation, 2) give an antibiotic to kill an invader or 3) give a blood thinner like aspirin; another example, in the realm of war ‘amateurs talk about tactics, professionals talk about logistics’; my last example, in the realm of finance, ‘and that man was John Maynard Keynes’ (I’ll let you read the book to get the whole story, but it involves shorting pesetas).

The author questions our purpose. Why are we here? Is the universe a computer? He answers the first question by quoting Camus. I’ll refute Camus’ myth of Sisyphus by saying we have to learn and discover for ourselves. That is why I am here. Sure, one first needs to meet the daily needs and grind of existence, but after relaxation and needs are met learning is what motivates me.

AI (and ultimately AGI, artificial general intelligence) is one way we’re discovering and improving our world and discovering our meaning for being, and the author gives examples in the medical, security (computer and defense), financial, mind hacking, and other areas of life. Deep learning is real and is happening now. Computer software is teaching itself how to solve goal oriented actions.

The author had read 'Homo Deus' and knows that we create our own reality from the fictions we choose to believe in at the time and that is how AGI can ultimately develop too (our reality is a 'parler de facon').

Every experience we ever have is of a particular instant. We as humans try to make sense of our experiences by going from the specific to the general by using our intuition about the matter of fact. Four different times in different paradigms the author brought this concept up. Firstly (according to the author), Warren Buffett makes his money by feeling the quality of the management team of the company he wants to invest in and not just analytically analyzing financial reports and trends; secondly, he'll say the world is explained by the ‘structured and unstructured’ knowledge we have about the world; thirdly, the author uses Kahneman’s S1 and S2, quick logical thinking and slow feeling thinking. Lastly, in a story related by the author as told by his father the difference between Western thinking and Eastern thinking is analytical verse synthetic story telling. Overall, the author is defending the new age of deep learning ANI (artificial narrow intelligence) with an ability to feel (intuit) as well as logically (analytically) solve complex problems and soon the process will lead to the higher level AGI (artificial general intelligence).

Sometimes the author was out of his depth. Is Goldman Sachs profitable because of its proprietary trading as the author says or because they knew how to get ahead of the trade by a fraction of a second? Were the Russian Bots influential because a crazy racist uncle liked their articles on Facebook for their goofy conspiracy crap such as ‘climate change is a Chinese hoax’ as the author implies or was it because the reality based media printed nonsense stories about an email server almost every other day? There’s no doubt that reality based media has more influence then what the author called ‘mind hackers’ did. It turned out some of our gate keepers such as Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Mark Hallerpin all thought it was acceptable to ‘grab women inappropriately’ and they influenced public opinion and clearly saw women as mostly as objects and are thankfully no longer on my TV. Lastly, can anyone design an experiment such that S1 and S2 can be shown not to be true. If they can’t, then it’s pseudoscience. That doesn’t mean it’s not necessarily true, but it does mean that it lacks a foundation and should probably not be used as a foundation for other justified true beliefs.

Overall, the book is enjoyable. It doesn’t really break new ground or anything, but the author is a good story teller and this book is better than most AI books.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant book to understand AI

This is a brilliant book to understand and consider the coming age of artificial intelligence.

There are concepts that are challenging to get your mind around however the journey you are taken on by the author provides an amazing insight into the world of artificial intelligence.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Wow

This book was absolutely fantastic and gives you a glimpse into many of the future uses and big questions surrounding AI.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • Nebraska
  • 11-24-17

AI optimist

Interesting take on the security and societal of AI. Not the typical doom and gloom of AIs rise.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great thought provoking book. Great narrator too.

My mind has been expanded and as my knowledge grows my self-awarness grows too. incredible book especially for someone about to study AI in college. This is a book everyone needs to read.

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Artifical Intelligence - You Can't Stop It

Would you consider the audio edition of The Sentient Machine to be better than the print version?

I only bought the Audio Edition

What other book might you compare The Sentient Machine to and why?

There are other books in the field, but I can't compare any others to this.

If you could give The Sentient Machine a new subtitle, what would it be?

You Can't Stop AI, So You Better Embrace It

Any additional comments?

If you have any interest in AI, or where technology is converging, this is an excellent book on the subject. Amir Hussein gives a very good explanation of what AI is, but more importantly, what are the implications for our lives as AI gets applied. The section where he discusses the AI "arms race" is frankly scary but unavoidable, and the potential rise of sentient machines is sobering. Highly recommended.

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A solid overview that adds little to the debate.

For those new to the ideas and concepts contained within, this book presents a reasonably good overview. Beyond that the book falls back on AI is inevitable and we must develop it before the bad guys do arguments.