The robot takeover will ignite an explosion of “awe-inspiring” life even if humans don’t survive, according to this exhilarating, demoralizing primer. MIT physicist Tegmark (Our Mathematical Universe) surveys advances in artificial intelligence such as self-driving cars and Jeopardy-winning software, but focuses on the looming prospect of “recursive self-improvement”—AI systems that build smarter versions of themselves at an accelerating pace until their intellects surpass ours. Tegmark’s smart, freewheeling discussion leads to fascinating speculations on AI-based civilizations spanning galaxies and eons—and knotty questions: Will our digital overlords be conscious? Will they coddle us with abundance and virtual-reality idylls or exterminate us with bumblebee-size attack robots? While digerati may be enthralled by the idea of superintelligent civilizations where “beautiful theorems” serve as the main economic resource, Tegmark’s future will strike many as a one in which, at best, humans are dependent on AI-powered technology and, at worst, are extinct. His call for strong controls on AI systems sits awkwardly beside his acknowledgment that controlling such godlike entities will be almost impossible. Love it or hate it, it’s an engrossing forecast. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/10/2017 Release date: 08/29/2017 Genre: Nonfiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.