A physicist explores the future of artificial intelligence

Aug 23, 2017

By Haym Hirsh

Whether it’s reports of a new and wondrous technological accomplishment or of the danger we face in a future filled with unbridled machines, artificial intelligence (AI) has recently been receiving a great deal of attention. If you want to understand what the fuss is all about, Max Tegmark’s original, accessible, and provocative Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence would be a great place to start.

The book’s goal is not to tell us what being human will look like in the years ahead, as the title might seem to suggest, but rather to give us the background necessary to understand where technology might lead the human species. In this it succeeds, bringing well-timed clarity to the sometimes muddled public view of AI that has emerged over the past few years.

When computer scientist John McCarthy gave the field its name in 1955, AI’s scholars grappled with the tantalizing prospect that computers might have the capacity to demonstrate broad human-level intelligence, something that is now increasingly called “artificial general intelligence” (AGI). Achieving AGI, however, proved difficult, and researchers were forced to strategically target more narrow tasks, focusing on problems such as understanding images, interacting with natural language, manipulating objects in the physical world, learning, and even playing games. The timeliness of Life 3.0 arises from the unprecedented number and range of successes seen in these areas in just the past few years and the ensuing publicity these successes have generated.

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You can also order a copy of Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence here.

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