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This book is more frightening than any book you'll ever read. The author makes a great case for what the future holds for us humans. I believe the concepts in "The Singularity is Near" by Ray Kurzweil are mostly spot on, but the one area Kurzweil dismisses prematurely is how the SI (superintelligent advanced artificial intelligence) entity will react to its circumstances.
The book doesn't really dwell much on how the SI will be created. The author mostly assumes a computer algorithm of some kind with perhaps human brain enhancements. If you reject such an SI entity prima facie this book is not for you, since the book mostly deals with assuming such a recursive self aware and self improving entity will be in humanities future.
The author makes some incredibly good points. He mostly hypothesizes that the SI entity will be a singleton and not allow others of its kind to be created independently and will happen on a much faster timeline after certain milestones are fulfilled.
The book points out how hard it is to put safeguards into a procedure to guard against unintended consequences. For example, making 'the greater good for the greatest many' the final goal can lead to unintended consequence such as allowing a Nazi ruled world (he doesn't give that example directly in the book, and I borrow it from Karl Popper who gave it as a refutation for John Stuart Mill's utilitarian philosophy). If the goal is to make us all smile, the SI entity might make brain probes that force us to smile. There is no easy end goal specifiable without unintended consequences.
This kind of thinking within the book is another reason I can recommend the book. As I was listening, I realized that all the ways we try to motivate or control an SI entity to be moral can also be applied to us humans in order to make us moral to. Morality is hard both for us humans and for future SI entities.
There's a movie from the early 70s called "Colossus: The Forbin Project", it really is a template for this book, and I would recommend watching the movie before reading this book.
I just recently listened to the book, "Our Final Invention" by James Barrat. That book covers the same material that is presented in this book. This book is much better even though they overlap very much. The reason why is this author, Nick Bostrom, is a philosopher and knows how to lay out his premises in such a way that the story he is telling is consistent, coherent, and gives a narrative to tie the pieces together (even if the narrative will scare the daylights out of the listener).
This author has really thought about the problems inherent in an SI entity, and this book will be a template for almost all future books on this subject.
73 of 74 people found this review helpful
There is not much math in this book, not many pictures or tables. Usually this is a good indicator that I'll be able to follow along in an audio version. That was not true of this book. I listen to audiobooks while doing menial tasks involving infrequent and brief moments of concentration, with most books I am able to do this easily, but this book requires some pondering and digestion. Any distraction seemed to be enough to miss something important. Perhaps some of this was due to narrator's smooth baratone which - for reasons I don't know - I didn't like. I plan on getting the hard copy and reading this one in silence. This book is definitely a must read, but it also seems it must be read slowly. Put it down, think about it, talk about it with your friends, then and only then on to the next chapter.
69 of 70 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to Superintelligence the most enjoyable?
It's a timely topic that is covered in great detail, perhaps stating the obvious a bit too frequently. It is extremely thorough in the approach, delving into a variety of areas that support the central topic of AI and the potential threats it harbours
Who was your favorite character and why?
What do you think the narrator could have done better?
The narrator is a text to speech synthesiser rather than a real person, and whilst it is better than most, giving a fair degree of intonation, it fails badly at times (eg abbreviations said in a way no human would say) and because the tone is so repetitive any initial advantages in clarity are soon swamped by the monotony.
Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
No, and this is partly the topic, partly the style and partly the synthetic narrator.
Any additional comments?
It's remarkable that no reviews appear to identify that the narrator is synthetic (one person stated that it was spoken like one). It isn't clear from the sample if you are not prepared but it is obvious once you start to listen, as most words at the same point in a sentence have identical sound, lacking the subtle variation that human narrators provide. It is surprisingly clear but in the long run it becomes extremely tedious to listen to. This also brings the question of whether the book is good value, and given that the narrator being synthetic is not made clear to the purchasers I feel that it is not. Others may disagree and it's a matter of taste but you should be aware before you purchase
38 of 40 people found this review helpful
Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Napoleon Ryan?
Someone directed to do a less hammy and over-dramatic performance of what is a non-fiction book.
Any additional comments?
Had I known the book makes many references to figures in the print version, I wouldn't have downloaded.
32 of 34 people found this review helpful
AI is a very interesting topic, but the writing style of Nick Bostrom makes what is already a complicated topic even more difficult to understand by using overly ornate language. Long convoluted sentences, with lots of commas and references to footnotes. The way the narrator read the book made it sound even more aloof. A very hard book to get through.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Amazing book. Some really interesting and important topics. I found it can be a bit hard going with very technical language at times.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful