Book Review: Will Computers Revolt?

Will Computers Revolt?  Preparing For The Future Of Artificial Intelligence, by Charles J. Simon

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Reedsy Discovery for the purposes of review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

As someone who has read a great many books written by futurists wishing to predict the future and prepare readers for it, I have noticed a great many similarities in approach.  This book, like many others of its kind, takes a linear extrapolation of contemporary trends and points it off towards infinity, positing ever higher global temperatures (thus prompting fears of global warming), ever larger sizes of finch beaks, and (in this case) ever greater computing power and therefore some degree of intellect on the part of technology.  Despite lacking a firm understanding of the brain-mind problem and the possibility that nonphysical aspects are responsible for some aspects of our thinking and consciousness, the author is sanguine about the future of Artificial Intelligence and insistent that it will develop during our own lifetimes even if is likely to be perfected slowly over time and that not all of the kinks or limitations or principles that would need to govern Artificial Intelligence have yet been worked out.

This particular book is a sizable one, divided into three sections and a total of eleven chapters.  The author begins with a preface and foreword that ask the question of why we do not yet see Artificial Intelligence.  The first section of the book asks the rhetorical question (to the author) of whether we will see AI in the near future, with chapters on whether we could become computers (1), defining intelligence (2), looking at the possibility of intelligent machines (3), asking if they are inevitable (4), and wondering whether intelligent machines are dangerous (5).  The next part of the book then digs deeper into the nature of intelligence, with chapters on the evolution of intelligence (6), the comparison and contrast of our brain’s system with CPU design (7), the comparison between computers and lower life forms (8), pattern recognition (9), senses and knowledge (10), modeling, simulation, and imagination (11), free will and consciousness (12), and the question of how systems in AI will act (13).  The third section then deals with the question of how intelligent machines will act, with chapters on the future of AI (14), genius (15), Asimov’s laws (16), going beyond the Turing Test (17), and asking and answering the question of whether intelligent machines will revolt (18), after which the book concludes with a fictional memoir of an intelligent computer, acknowledgments, glossary of terms, and an index.

Despite the book’s flaws, this is certainly a worthy book to read.  Even where a reader would find fault with the author’s evolutionary perspective, his facile adoption of extrapolation for the trendlines of increasing computer capability and a belief that there are no limits to increased computational power, incipient consciousness and even genius in technology, and in the takeover of vital functions of running the world from beings that are thought to be less subject to irrationality than our own species has been, and more able to come up with arguments to convince and manipulate people to support what he views as needing to be done.  It was striking to me as a reader, for all that the author had to say about the possible computer analogues of the brain stem, cerebellum, and prefrontal cortex, that the author did not at all discuss the limbic system that allows for the emotional tie between human beings and each other or between human beings and other animals, especially mammals, that have the same sort of drive for love and intimacy that we do.  If technology is to be stopped from revolution, it would be good for them to have some sort of tie of love towards us, which indicates that the author would have done well to have considered the emotional needs of computers, or of human beings whose support and approval will likely be necessary to adapt to any world where Artificial Intelligence is to be cultivated and developed.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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