The Age of AI … Smart robots, conscious computers, and the future of humanity … say hello to tomorrow

June 9, 2019

AI has become the predominant technology driver of our time.

The term artificial intelligence (AI) has been used far and wide within the realm of data science and beyond – but what exactly is it and what are its capabilities? The premise behind AI is to mimic a human brain inside a machine, accomplished primarily by an algorithm that is continuously learning.

It has the potential to transform the global economy. PwC estimates that labour productivity improvements will drive initial GDP gains as firms seek to “augment” the productivity of their labour force with AI technologies and to automate some tasks and roles. Their research also suggests that 45% of total economic gains by 2030 will come from product enhancements, stimulating consumer demand. This is because AI will drive greater product variety, with increased personalisation, attractiveness and affordability over time. The greatest economic gains from AI will be in China (26% boost to GDP in 2030) and North America (14.5% boost), equivalent to a total of $10.7 trillion and accounting for almost 70% of the global economic impact.

Yet few people know the real story about where this technology came from and why it suddenly took off.

In “Hello World,” the story of AI’s rise is told in detail for the first time, as journalist Ashlee Vance heads to the unexpected birthplace of the technology, Canada.

Here are 5 of the best books which I have come across exploring the AI-enabled future:

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

Following on from his smash hit Sapiens, which explored how the human race evolved, Harari peeks into the not-too-distant future to see what’s in store for the human race. Artificial life is just one part of this envisioned world, and Harari explores a range of other challenges, including immortality.

The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity by Byron Reese

This fascinating book argues that AI will have enormous implications for the human race, to the extent that it will redefine what it means to be human. As background, Reese sets out the previous three ages where technology has reshaped humanity and sets up AI and robotics as the fourth age of transformation. In other words, it’s a gripping (and surprisingly optimistic) account of how we got where we are today, and how we should approach the new age that’s upon us.

Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark

One of Barack Obama’s favourite books of 2018 and named Book of the Year by both The Times and The Daily Telegraph, this highly praised book more than lives up to the hype. In it, Tegmark, who is a physicist and cosmologist, sets out to separate AI myths from reality in an approachable and lively way. Impressively, he manages to cover some quite challenging topics and questions (How can we create a more prosperous world through automation? How can we protect AI systems from hacking and nefarious use?) without being too high-brow or dumbing down – and without telling the reader what to think.

AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley And The New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee

In one of the most recent books I’ve read (at the time of writing this article), Lee argues that, thanks to China’s astonishing growth in this area, it now rivals the US in AI technology. For both of these superpowers, and indeed the rest of the world, this means dramatic business and societal changes will hit us sooner than anyone could imagine. If global politics really isn’t your thing, don’t be put off. Lee paints a very readable picture of what this increasing AI competition will mean for real people’s jobs.

Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI by Paul Daugherty and James Wilson

Daugherty and Wilson are Accenture’s Chief Technology and Innovation Officer and Managing Director of IT and Business Research, giving this book a laser-like focus on the business implications of AI – or, more specifically, how companies are using AI to innovate and grow. Key to this book is the idea that no business process will be left untouched by AI. Across all areas of business, humans and intelligent machines are working more closely together and changing how companies operate. Indeed, the authors set out six hybrid ‘human + machine’ roles that they believe every business must put in place.

But above, remember that AI is not just automation, or likely to just have the same effects as automation in the past. This time it’s different. Some say that AI is as dumb as the person who created the code. Maybe initially, but it it is the relentless relearning and and processing capability that allows to it go beyond mere machines. The future is incredibly exciting, AI will enhance our capabilities beyond what we know, but we are still human, still driven by imagination, passion, empathy, love and reality.

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