What is Artificial Intelligence? – eBook Review

catThanks to many impressive and rapid advances over the past few years, Artificial Intelligence has come into the spotlight – again. This could just be one of many false starts that this field has seen over the many years of its existence, or yet another Silicon Valley fad designed that startups are using to quickly raise money and gain market share, but there are many good reasons to believe much of the hype. Artificial Intelligence is probably here for good, and much of the technology and business in the upcoming years will be focused on the best ways of leveraging it.

Judging by its title, this short ebook seems to provide a good explanation of what Artificial Intelligence is. Sadly, this is not the case. From the very first paragraph the authors concede that they will not even attempt to define the term. So if you decide to download this ebook (free from O’Reilly media) hoping to get a very definitive answer to what Artificial Intelligence really is, you will be disappointed. This, however, is not necessarily a bad thing. I am of a much more pragmatic and practical bent when it comes to technology, and just like with most cutting-edge transformative innovations and discoveries, a proper definition comes many years, or even decades, after some of the most exciting and groundbreaking work has been done. Sadly, one of the main reasons that the authors offer for not coming up with a definitive definition is their claim that we don’t really understand what human intelligence is. In fact, out of all psychological traits, intelligence is by far the best understood. However, many findings on the human intelligence offend many of our most cherished moralizing pieties, so for largely political reasons human intelligence research has been given a very ignominious reputation.

This ebook excels at giving a quick overview of some of the most exciting recent headline-grabbing research in Artificial Intelligence (AI). It also gives a pretty good account of the most popular AI tools and frameworks, as well as a very sober account of the shortcomings and how far we still are from a truly general and generalizable intelligence framework. The authors are skeptical, rightly so IMHO, of the attempts to come up with a framework that would safeguard us from a potential AI catastrophe that many researchers and practitioners envision. It is very hard, and exceedingly presumptuous, to come up with a proper framework to limit something that we barely and only superficially understand. The authors point out, correctly, that the best we can do is to think about the value system that we want to transmit to the future AI agents. But they too, just like most writers on this topic, are limited by their own elite, western, technocratic value system in envisioning what the optimal value system in fact is.

Overall, this is a pretty good, informative and well written short ebook that is well worth reading by anyone interested in this extremely exciting field.


Bojan Tunguz

Bojan Tunguz was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which he and his family fled during the civil war for the neighboring Croatia. Over the past two decades he has studied, lived and worked in the United States. He is a theoretical physicist with degrees from Stanford and University of Illinois. Tunguz has taught physics at several prominent liberal arts colleges and has been writing about physics, science and technology for more than a decade. He also has a wide spectrum of interests, and reads and writes about current events, society, culture, religion and politics. Over the years he has reviewed many of the books that he has read, and posted his reviews on various online outlets. In 2011 he had become a top 10 reviewer on Amazon.com, where he continues to be very active. Aside from reading and writing, Tunguz enjoys traveling, digital photography, hiking, and fitness. He resides with his wife in Indiana. You can follow my review updates on the following pages as well: Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tunguzreview Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/tunguzreviews Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/104312842297641697463/posts

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