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It used to be that to diagnose an illness, interpret legal documents, analyze foreign policy, or write a newspaper article you needed a human being with specific skills - and maybe an advanced degree or two. These days, high-level tasks are increasingly being handled by algorithms that can do precise work not only with speed but also with nuance. These "bots" started with human programming and logic, but now their reach extends beyond what their creators ever expected.
In this fascinating, frightening audiobook, Christopher Steiner tells the story of how algorithms took over - and shows why the "bot revolution" is about to spill into every aspect of our lives, often silently, without our knowledge. The May 2010 "Flash Crash" exposed Wall Street’s reliance on trading bots to the tune of a 998-point market drop and $1 trillion in vanished market value. But that was just the beginning. In Automate This, we meet bots that drive cars, pen haikus, and write music mistaken for Bach’s. They listen in on our customer service calls and figure out what Iran would do in the event of a nuclear standoff. There are algorithms that can pick out the most cohesive crew of astronauts for a space mission or identify the next Jeremy Lin. Some can even ingest statistics from baseball games and spit out pitch-perfect sports journalism indistinguishable from that produced by humans.
The interaction of man and machine can make our lives easier. But what will the world look like when algorithms control our hospitals, our roads, our culture, and our national security? What happens to businesses when we automate judgment and eliminate human instinct? And what role will be left for doctors, lawyers, writers, truck drivers, and many others? Who knows - maybe there’s a bot learning to do your job right this minute.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Philo on 09-20-12
This book in a talkative-colorful style tours through many creators and applications in various sub-fields of this big, emerging part of our lives. It shows in a general and non-tech way how a set of ideas or a body of knowledge is mapped onto a high-speed decision system. (Sometimes, the system is building knowledge as it goes.) The story about the evolution of call centers, and how a "bot" quickly reads the caller's personality from a few word usages and sentence structures, to route the call to the right type of response (and responder) was very telling. It is typical of the way our interactions with business (even fleeting ones) are increasingly mapped from the first milliseconds, to improve the customer service experience (or manipulate us, or introduce a ruthless efficiency to reduce the call center workforce, etc., there being many dimensions, depending on how one might like to look at it). That data is, of course, stored and continuously analyzed. This book is pretty friendly toward the purveyors of these changes. Other audios loosely in this genre include "Super Crunchers" and "Dark Pools."
26 of 27 people found this review helpful
By Amazon Customer on 02-11-13
Think they can't automate your job? Think again!
Excellent even if slightly terrifying listen. Steiner offers multiple illustrations of the double edged nature of automation for the humanity it "serves." Trading algorithms allow investment houses to cash in on market imperfections. A robot pharmacist fills prescriptions flawlessly. A computer program composes new symphonies in the styles of long dead masters. Those of us who earn a living through the application of specialized knowledge are under siege. Algorithms that synthesize our elaborate decision trees enable computers to do a hard day's work in the blink of an eye.
12 of 12 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By mr Peter Mo on 10-19-17
Even though I was expecting a different concept, this book pleasantly surprised me and it has a lot to offer. It opened my eyes to some aspects of automation I had not consciously considered before and it inspired me to further develop my coding skills.
I actually listened to it at 1.25x of speed and it was just perfect.
By Alev Haddadieh on 04-26-16
Developments and the application of the algorithmsn in the last 10 to 15 years have been fascinating..