The Artificial Intelligence Revolution

WILL ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE SERVE US OR REPLACE US?

Blending hard science and sci-fi, physicist Del Monte (How to Time Travel, 2013, etc.) warns of the implications of strong artificial intelligence machines.

AI is hardly some far-off invention. We are surrounded by smart technology, from phones to bombs; medical innovations are already turning us into human-machine cyborgs; and computing performance doubles every 18 months. At this rate, as scientists such as Ray Kurzweil have predicted, 2029 may mark the tipping point, or singularity, when machines surpass humans in intelligence. Del Monte offers an accessible history and a realistic future trajectory of SAMs. Automata were imagined by ancient Egyptians and Greeks, and Frankenstein’s monster is but one early example of literature’s preoccupation with intelligent artificial beings, a trend that also included Isaac Asimov’s robot fiction. In 1956, a Dartmouth conference made AI a valid academic subject, soon funded by the Department of Defense. Although machines lack empathy and cannot solve problems based on experiential learning, “affective computing” attempts to teach computers to recognize human emotion through both subjective (gestures and facial features) and objective (blood flow and skin conductivity) means. Still, questions remain: Will SAMs ever exhibit self-awareness? If so, should they be considered a distinct life form with “machine rights” similar to human rights? Del Monte presents three likely scenarios for the future ethics of human-machine interaction: In the worst case, SAMs will exterminate humanity; in the best case, humans will continue to control machines via computers; in the third scenario, somewhere in between those two extremes, humans and cyborgs will cooperate—and possibly intermarry. The book’s well-structured arguments, glossary and lucid prose make it perfectly suited to laymen. Del Monte’s doommongering can seem overblown in places, though: “Time is short because the singularity is approaching with the stealth and agility of a leopard stalking a lamb.” He also tends to repeat his purpose for writing—i.e., “I am ringing the alarm in this book”—and unnecessarily recapitulates his conclusions after each chapter. Moreover, long quotes from other authors overcrowd the author’s own analysis.

A clearly argued—if sometimes overstated—prophecy about the rise of robots and cyborgs.

Pub Date: April 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-0988171824

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Louis A Del Monte

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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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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