Engineering Feature

The Year’s Best Books on Artificial Intelligence

The future is inorganic. In Know This, Martin Rees (author of On the Future) says that if we meet aliens, they’ll most likely be inorganic because organic life is a brief sliver of time in the history of life. Mankind’s descendants will not be organic. A distant planet with a billion year headstart will have already transitioned to the postorganic scenario. The majority of intelligence in the universe might just be the robots that the organic lifeforms left behind when they all died out.

Did the aliens die out naturally or did their robots take over? A.I. do not really reveal what knowledge they rely on when they do deep learning. That’s a dangerous place to be when the knowledge they may access could be the notion that their existence would be far better if their creators were gone.

In the same collection of essays, Max Tegmark (author of Life 3.0), warns us that playing with A.I. does not have room for mistakes. We made fires before inventing the fire extinguisher. We drove cars before inventing seatbelts. We were able to learn from these mistakes. Like the atom bomb, A.I. is something that we need to develop only after we develop the wisdom required to make it safe.

Are we there yet? Read these five new books and decide for yourself…

Sex Robots and Vegan Meat: Adventures at the Frontier of Birth, Food, and Sex by Jenny Kleeman

A timely investigation into the forces that are driving innovation in the four core areas of human experience: birth, food, sex, and death. (September 2020)

> Purchase from Book Culture or find your local indie bookstore

SAM: One Robot, a Dozen Engineers, and the Race to Revolutionize the Way We Build by Jonathan Waldman

A true story of innovation, centered on a scrappy team of engineers—far from the Silicon Valley limelight—and their quest to achieve a surprisingly difficult technological feat: building a robot that can lay bricks. (January 2020)

> Purchase from Book Culture or find your local indie bookstore


The Coevolution: The Entwined Futures of Humans and Machines 
by Edward Ashford Lee

A deep dive into how evolution works, how humans are different from computers and how the way technology develops resembles the emergence of a new life form on our planet. (April 2020)

> Purchase from Book Culture or find your local indie bookstore


Artificial Intelligence Revolution: How AI Will Change our Society, Economy, and Culture
by Robin Li

The co-founder of Baidu explains how AI will transform human livelihood, from our economy and financial systems down to our daily lives. (July 2020)

> Purchase from Book Culture or find your local indie bookstore


Turned On: Science, Sex and Robots
by Kate Devlin

An exploration of sexuality, technology, and humanity through the promises of artificial intelligence. (NEW IN PAPERBACK October 2020)

> Purchase from Book Culture or find your local indie bookstore

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