Want to get your head around artificial intelligence? These seven non-technical books on AI offer context and insights into a complex subject.
From drones to self-driving cars to caring robots, artificial intelligence is becoming woven into our lives at a rapidly accelerating pace. With its roots back to Alan Turing in the 1950's, artificial intelligence today has become increasingly sophisticated—where machines were once used to perform simple tasks, they are increasingly being designed with more human-like traits.
If you know little about artificial intelligence and need to get up to speed, here are seven books that can help you get some important context for this quickly evolving field.
1. The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology (2005) by Raymond Kurzweil
Director of Research at Google, Kurzweil is considered by many the leading expert in artificial intelligence today. In this book, he goes year by year into our future. What can we expect from technology in 5, 10, 100 years? Kurzweil, says Roman Yampolskiy, director of the Cybersecurity Lab at the University of Louisville, is well-known for his predictions—he accurately predicted when a computer would become a chess champion, for example.
2. Designing Sociable Robots (2002) by Cynthia Breazeal
Breazeal, assistant professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Lab, offers her vision of the future with robots that interact with humans in a more-human way, giving a plan for the development of her sociable robot Kismet.
3. Our Robots, Ourselves: Robotics and the Myths of Autonomy (2015) by David A. Mindell
This upcoming title explores places on all corners of the earth where robots are making an impact. Mindell argues against the idea that humans will one day be overtaken by robots, believing that a human element will always be an essential component of our mechanized systems.
4. The Emotion Machine: Commonsense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of the Human Mind (2006) by Marvin Minsky
In his sequel to The Society of Mind, Minsky, a founding father of artificial intelligence and co-founder of MIT's AI laboratory, asks: How is feeling related to thinking? Can we build machines that have the capacity for thinking and consciousness that humans do?
5. Artificial Life: A Report from the Frontier Where Computers Meet Biology (1992) by Steven Levy
Esteemed technology writer Levy released Artificial Life, a seminal history of robotics as a field of study, in its early days, more than twenty years ago. In it, he illustrates examples of different life forms and possibilities introduced by artificial intelligence.
6. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies (2014) by Nick Bostrom
Bostrom, a philosophy professor at Oxford, makes a compelling case about the primary place of AI in our lives, discussing safety and security issues from an existential point of view and warning of a potential catastrophe if superintelligent life ever seizes power.
7. Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era (2013) by James Barrat
This carefully researched book, written by documentary filmmaker Barrat, makes a case for exercising extreme caution in our development and implementation of artificial intelligence. It is a more pessimistic counterpoint to Kurzweil and other AI enthusiasts.
Want a bonus read? While not directly about AI, Sherry Turkle's The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit gives context into the relationships we have had with our machines. Published in 1985, this is one of the first books to look at the implications of living with machines.
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