A consideration of artificial intelligence’s technological and economic potential.
According to entrepreneur, corporate researcher, and debut author Bates,we stand on the precipice of a new technological age—a “fourth industrial revolution” that will carry humankind to “stratospheric heights.” Although investment and progress in AI has been prolific, the author calls “intelligence augmentation”—a combination of machine and human cognition—the next frontier. AI and human intelligence generally express different core aptitudes, Bates asserts; although computers are astonishingly efficient at analyzing and retaining troves of data, people are capable of intuitive discovery and creative spontaneity. Rather than replicating human abilities—which he sees as the current obsession of AI research—his version of intellectual augmentation would be a collaboration between computerized and human capabilities. He contends that this is the safest route for humans, as it results in more human control and offers protection from complete replacement by automation. People would effectively become “superhuman”—completely liberated from the “intellectual housekeeping” of relatively mindless tasks and free to devote themselves to more creative, fulfilling pursuits. The author provides a brief, synoptic history of AI since its “golden era” in the mid-20th century and ably diagnoses an opportunity to make huge strides in the field, thanks to a present superabundance of data, money, and algorithmic competence. He also assesses future, specific applications of AI in manufacturing, health care, and the arts. Bates has an academic and entrepreneurial background in AI, which he effectively expresses in his study’s scholarly rigor and commercial insight. Also, he provides a nuanced, if brief, introduction to the debates regarding the relationship between intelligence, creativity, and intuition. The prose is helpfully straightforward and clear, and those who may be unfamiliar with hyper-technical AI discourse will still find it accessible. That said, Bates does have a tendency to meander; for example, his historical discussions of hybridized creatures in ancient literature and popular culture neither advance nor clarify his main argument. Nevertheless, he makes a convincing, original case that deserves a wide audience.
A provocative, philosophically astute, and technologically savvy analysis.