Superintelligence

  • by Nick Bostrom
  • Narrated by Napoleon Ryan
  • 14 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Superintelligence asks the questions: What happens when machines surpass humans in general intelligence? Will artificial agents save or destroy us? Nick Bostrom lays the foundation for understanding the future of humanity and intelligent life. The human brain has some capabilities that the brains of other animals lack. It is to these distinctive capabilities that our species owes its dominant position. If machine brains surpassed human brains in general intelligence, then this new superintelligence could become extremely powerful - possibly beyond our control. As the fate of the gorillas now depends more on humans than on the species itself, so would the fate of humankind depend on the actions of the machine superintelligence.
But we have one advantage: We get to make the first move. Will it be possible to construct a seed Artificial Intelligence, to engineer initial conditions so as to make an intelligence explosion survivable? How could one achieve a controlled detonation?
This profoundly ambitious and original book breaks down a vast track of difficult intellectual terrain. After an utterly engrossing journey that takes us to the frontiers of thinking about the human condition and the future of intelligent life, we find in Nick Bostrom's work nothing less than a reconceptualization of the essential task of our time.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Colossus: The Forbin Project is coming

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.

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- Gary

A must read that must be read slowly

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.
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- Charles

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-03-2014
  • Publisher: Audible Studios