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THE AGE OF AI

AND OUR HUMAN FUTURE

Good reading for those seeking to navigate the alt-reality world after the singularity.

Kissinger, Schmidt, and Huttenlocher weigh in on the robotic future.

When thinking of Kissinger in the context of futurology, one might conjure the image of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove; after all, it’s said that he served as the model for the character. Instead, think of the 1983 film War Games, in which young Matthew Broderick nearly touches off thermonuclear war with his computer tinkering. As that latter film showed, AI involves machines learning to think for themselves—and when they do so while lacking “preprogrammed moves, combinations, or strategies derived from human play,” the machines learn by their own rules. This can be good: One AI routine that the authors discuss figured out a new pharmaceutical formula that humans might never have discovered. But there’s a catch, potentially ominous: “The advent of AI obliges us to confront whether there is a form of logic that humans have not achieved or cannot achieve, exploring aspects of reality we have never known and may never directly know.” The book then spins off into an area Kissinger knows best: how AI might be put to work in the realm of national and international security, developing systems that may keep us all safe—or, alternately, that “will be so responsive that adversaries may attempt to attack before the systems are operational.” All this begs the need for international accords on the use of AI, and we must better understand the machines already showing the promise of outstripping some of our mental processes, an understanding that will allow us to “make peace with them and, in so doing, change the world.” Some parts of this policy paper seem to be mere padding, as with the side tour into Kant’s notion of the Ding an sich, but some will be of interest to students of arms control, future battlespaces, and the like.

Good reading for those seeking to navigate the alt-reality world after the singularity.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-27380-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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