Cars aren’t out to kill us, but that may be a side effect of building cars, writes documentary filmmaker Barrat in this oddly disturbing warning that progress in computers might spell our extinction.
Computers already perform essential tasks in our national infrastructure and daily lives, including several beyond the capacity of the smartest individual—e.g., playing chess or competing against humans on Jeopardy. While dazzling, these accomplishments are too specialized for the artificial intelligence the author and the many philosophers, scientists and entrepreneurs he interviews have in mind. Within decades, computers will operate at the speed of a human brain and become rational, allowing them to learn, rewrite their own programs to learn better, solve problems better, make decisions and perhaps create more computers like themselves. Having reached this level, they have achieved artificial general intelligence. Inevitably, working on their own without human input, they will exceed human intelligence by factors of 100 and eventually thousands, achieving artificial superintelligence. Many experts assert that the first ASI machine that humans invent will be our last invention due to the fact that it will leave man’s brainpower in the dust. Whether or not designers build friendliness or empathy into these machines (no one is doing that now), no ASI computer is likely to defer to our interests any more than humans deferred to, say, mice, bison or even indigenous tribes as they spread across the world.
As researchers on climate change know, warnings of future disasters are a hard sell. Enthusiasts dominate observers of progress in artificial intelligence; the minority who disagree are alarmed, articulate and perhaps growing in numbers, and Barrat delivers a thoughtful account of their worries.
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)