As researchers on climate change know, warnings of future disasters are a hard sell. Enthusiasts dominate observers of...

OUR FINAL INVENTION

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND THE END OF THE HUMAN ERA

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.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-62237-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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