Category Archives: Books

A nice read on the future of intelligence — and some thoughts

I recently listened to the audiobook of ‘Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies’ by N. Bostrom. The book discusses the possibility that machines surpass human intelligence, as well as various questions surrounding the issue. How might machines become smarter than human, what would that look like, how – if at all – would we still be able to control them? The author does a good job exploring the different possibilities in what might lie ahead in an objective and thorough manner and provides a lot of food for thought.

As for more personal impressions, perhaps it’s the fact that I have not read much on the subject before, but by the end of the book I was left with a sense of unease – will humans ever be ready to tackle the challenges in dealing with super-intelligence? It seems that, if super-intelligence becomes reality and stays under human control, different ways to use it and distribute its benefits could have largely different effects for the distribution of wealth and happiness among humans. Such a development would therefore be a huge test for human values (e.g., if production of goods can be planned and carried out perfectly by super-intelligent systems, should we distribute wealth equally? or according to each one’s needs? or according to the wishes of the system’s owner? who should be the owner of such systems?), but also on our decision-making institutions (e.g., how would democratic societies make use of super-intelligent systems? would democracies be enhanced with their help or substituted by them?) . Perhaps the best way to prepare for it is to work harder on the challenges we face in our current, ‘human’ affairs.

The best book I read in 2014

 

The best book I read in 2014 was ‘Probability Theory – The Logic of Science’ (2003) by Edwin T. Jaynes. It was recommended to me by an ex-colleague from Toronto and it turned out to be one of the most exciting scientific books I’ve read so far.

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E.T. Jaynes was a physicist and one of the main figures in the development of probability theory in the 20th century. He was associated with the school of scientists that, in the tradition of Laplace, viewed probability as a system of logic – what’s commonly known as the Bayesian school of probability. This book was his attempt to summarize his view on probability theory. Unfortunately, he was not able to complete it before his death. As a result, the published version is missing some chapters from the originally planned outline and some of the later chapters in the book are not as polished as earlier ones. Still, its 700 pages make an extraordinary read.

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