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Book Review: ‘The Age of AI: And Our Human Future’

by Amrit Parmar

From ensemble cast of authors former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and MIT’s Daniel Huttenlocher comes “The Age of AI: And Our Human Future,” an exploration of how artificial intelligence (AI) is already changing our world and how it may someday change the very nature of the human condition.

AI will affect everything from the way we make scientific discoveries to the way warfare is conducted, the authors predict. It has already surpassed the world’s greatest chess players, and it won’t be long before AI algorithms are the safest drivers on the road, the sharpest medical diagnosticians or the most prolific artists and writers.

But, uncontrolled, AI also poses nightmarish dangers to society: producing hyper-realistic fake speeches or videos of events that never happened, AI-driven warfare spilling over into the civilian sphere, or, most disturbingly, a future where the most significant decisions about the fate of the world are not made by humans.

While I had some familiarity with the subject of AI, I was excited to develop a well-rounded understanding of it from this title.

“The Age of AI: And Our Human Future” is dense with explanations, predictions, opinions and fears about AI, and is also encased in difficult and, at times, repetitive language. It lays out rough outlines for national and global committees that should determine AI’s uses and limitations across industry, academia and governments, in what feels like a stream of consciousness narrative.

Because this book is based on actual conversations between the authors, it felt at times as if I were being hit with the conclusions of many hours of thought without the time to reason through it all myself and keep pace.

But the abstruse wording and repetitive statements weren’t the biggest obstacles to getting through this book. Instead, it was the deeply thought-provoking points made by the authors that regularly sent me spiraling into reflection. The authors did succeed in what was perhaps their primary objective: to instill in the reader a sense of the significance of AI and the need for discourse about it.

This book ambitiously attempts to walk the reader through as comprehensive a summary of AI as can be fit in 143 pages. This book has convinced me that AI will span far beyond the domain of science and technology, infiltrating every aspect of society and changing nearly everything about the way we live our lives.

Although I expected to come away from the reading somewhat satisfied on the subject, I was left asking more questions than I could find answers for in these pages. Though it was my first book on the subject, it will certainly not be the last.

This book may not be the singular text about artificial intelligence that I was hoping for, but it’s worth reading nonetheless. It’s a guidebook for the kind of considerations we should be having about AI: how it will impact the economy, law, warfare, diplomacy and what it will mean to be human in a world dominated by nonhuman intelligence.

At its core, this book is meant to start a conversation — perhaps what will soon be “the” conversation. As a new, AI-driven epoch of human existence looms on the horizon, this is a subject everyone needs to take the time to familiarize themselves with — the sooner, the better. To that end, one need not look further than “The Age of AI: And Our Human Future” to do just that.

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