FUTUREPROOF

9 RULES FOR HUMANS IN THE AGE OF AUTOMATION

Helpful advice to quell workers’ anxiety.

A technology journalist proposes future-oriented skills to prepare people for a new machine age.

To counter worry that artificial intelligence will make human workers obsolete, New York Times tech columnist Roose offers an upbeat, practical guide for dealing with “a world that is increasingly arranged by and for machines.” Rather than competing with machines by trying to work longer hours and beefing up technological knowledge, the author advises that humans should optimize skills that machines cannot emulate: “handling the unexpected,” for example; meeting “social and emotional needs”; and doing jobs “that involve novel circumstances, low-probability events, and rare combinations of skills.” AI is programmed to address “big data sets, large numbers of users, or huge quantities of inputs or outputs” but not to transfer knowledge from one problem to another. If people want to make themselves harder to replace, they should hone their ability to do things that require creativity, flexibility, and “human accountability.” Among the nine rules that Roose suggests for the future are a few that deliberately distance humans from technology: Wrest your attention from constantly checking your phone; curb “hustle tendencies” to overfill your schedule and drown yourself in work obligations; increase interaction with others by physical proximity, collaborative projects, and social videoconferences even if you work remotely; and speak up about “the potential stakes” of implementing AI and automation in your workplace. It’s crucial, Roose asserts, to keep humans involved in critical processes. Essential skills for the future include the ability to pay sustained attention (a skill undermined by the distractions of the internet); being able to hone emotional intelligence and empathy; media literacy; “treating other people well” and “acting ethically”; and becoming a “consequentialist,” applying critical thinking to evaluate the success or failure of AI processes and tools and “to analyze new products and imagine all the ways they could go wrong.”

Helpful advice to quell workers’ anxiety.

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13334-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

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

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. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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