A must-read, fully-up-to-date report on the holy grail of computing.

GENIUS MAKERS

THE MAVERICKS WHO BROUGHT AI TO GOOGLE, FACEBOOK, AND THE WORLD

Many books proclaim that true artificial intelligence is on the horizon, and this expert overview makes a convincing case that genuine AI is…on the horizon.

New York Times technology correspondent Metz tells his engrossing story through the lives of a dozen geniuses, scores of brilliant men (mostly), and an ongoing, cutthroat industrial and academic arms race. He begins with a history of neural networks, an idea developed in the 1950s when it became clear that sheer calculating speed would never produce a smart computer. A neural network is an engineering system modeled on the web of neurons in the brain. Such systems can be “trained” by passing signals back and forth through multiple layers without being programmed with specific rules. Vastly overhyped, the concept led to few accomplishments—until the 21st century, when massive computer power and breakthroughs by Metz’s heroes have produced spectacular achievements. As the author astutely points out, calling it “artificial intelligence” may be a mistake. Today’s neural nets capable of “deep learning” don’t think, but they’re superb at pattern recognition. They can identify photographs and handwriting and respond with modest sophistication to verbal commands (Siri and Alexa). A computer employing deep learning is not a brain; it requires access to a titanic database and accomplishes a single task. The unbeatable chess player can’t play Jeopardy! That requires a different computer. Despite massive challenges, a handful of mega-companies (Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon) and one mega-nation (China) have no doubts. For Elon Musk, “it was all wrapped up in the same technological trend. First image recognition. Then translation. Then driverless cars.” Then AI. Metz expresses optimism for the next decade but does not pin his hopes on the U.S. The Trump administration’s clampdown on immigration has diverted foreign talent and American investment elsewhere. Meanwhile, China has “built a domestic industry worth more than $150 billion…treating artificial intelligence like its own Apollo program.”

A must-read, fully-up-to-date report on the holy grail of computing.

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4267-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.

THE MEATEATER GUIDE TO WILDERNESS SKILLS AND SURVIVAL

The bad news: On any given outdoor expedition, you are your own worst enemy. The good news: If you are prepared, which this book helps you achieve, you might just live through it.

As MeatEater host and experienced outdoorsman Rinella notes, there are countless dangers attendant in going into mountains, woods, or deserts; he quotes journalist Wes Siler: “People have always managed to find stupid ways to die.” Avoiding stupid mistakes is the overarching point of Rinella’s latest book, full of provocative and helpful advice. One stupid way to die is not to have the proper equipment. There’s a complication built into the question, given that when humping gear into the outdoors, weight is always an issue. The author’s answer? “Build your gear list by prioritizing safety.” That entails having some means of communication, water, food, and shelter foremost and then adding on “extra shit.” As to that, he notes gravely, “a National Park Service geologist recently estimated that as much as 215,000 pounds of feces has been tossed haphazardly into crevasses along the climbing route on Denali National Park’s Kahiltna Glacier, where climbers melt snow for drinking water.” Ingesting fecal matter is a quick route to sickness, and Rinella adds, there are plenty of outdoorspeople who have no idea of how to keep their bodily wastes from ruining the scenery or poisoning the water supply. Throughout, the author provides precise information about wilderness first aid, ranging from irrigating wounds to applying arterial pressure to keeping someone experiencing a heart attack (a common event outdoors, given that so many people overexert without previous conditioning) alive. Some takeaways: Keep your crotch dry, don’t pitch a tent under a dead tree limb, walk side-hill across mountains, and “do not enter a marsh or swamp in flip-flops, and think twice before entering in strap-on sandals such as Tevas or Chacos.”

A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12969-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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