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Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  7,677 Ratings  ·  814 Reviews
Superintelligence asks the questions: What happens when machines surpass humans in general intelligence? Will artificial agents save or destroy us? Nick Bostrom lays the foundation for understanding the future of humanity and intelligent life. The human brain has some capabilities that the brains of other animals lack. It is to these distinctive capabilities that our speci ...more
Hardcover, 328 pages
Published September 3rd 2014 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published July 3rd 2014)
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Ben Pace I am quite unsure what you are imagining when you imply that an AI can have no goals. If the seed AI only wanted to improve itself, that would be it's…moreI am quite unsure what you are imagining when you imply that an AI can have no goals. If the seed AI only wanted to improve itself, that would be it's goal. An AI with no goals does nothing... It's just a rock.

Maybe you had something else in mind. I do not know if you have reached argument for the following statement, but it is argued that if a super intelligent AI has a goal, that AI's goal tends to entirely shape the future. If you make an super intelligent AI without goals, someone else can come along and make an AI with goals, and unless that person has done a helluva lot of work on deciding on the goals, it is also argued that things will be very very bad.(less)

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Superintelligence was published in 2014, and it's already had time to become a cult classic. So, with apologies for being late getting to the party, here's my two cents.

For people who still haven't heard of it, the book is intended as a serious, hard-headed examination of the risks associated with the likely arrival, in the short- to medium-term future, of machines which are significantly smarter than we are. Bostrom is well qualified to do this. He runs the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxfor
Brian Clegg
Jul 01, 2014 rated it liked it
There has been a spate of outbursts from physicists who should know better, including Stephen Hawking, saying ‘philosophy is dead – all we need now is physics’ or words to that effect. I challenge any of them to read this book and still say that philosophy is pointless.

It’s worth pointing out immediately that this isn’t really a popular science book. I’d say the first handful of chapters are for everyone, but after that, the bulk of the book would probably be best for undergraduate philosophy st
Riku Sayuj
Imagine a Danger (You may say I'm a Dreamer)

Bostrom is here to imagine a world for us (and he has batshit crazy imagination, have to give him that). The world he imagines is a post-AI world or at least a very-near-to-AI world or a nascent-AI world. Don’t expect to know how we will get there - only what to do if we get there and how to skew the road to getting there to our advantage. And there are plenty of wild ideas on how things will pan out in that world-in-transition, the ‘routes’ bit - Bost
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Preamble:I confess to Roko's Basilisk that I didn't believe superintelligence was much of a threat, and this book didn't really do anything to challenge that prior. Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea [local] Maxima Culpa.

I. Overall View
I'm a software engineer with some basic experience in machine learning, and though the results of machine learning have been becoming more impressive and general, I've never really seen where people are coming from when they see strong superintelligence just around the co
John Igo
Apr 24, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio-book
This book...

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You can get most of the ideas in this book in the WaitButWhy article about AI.

This book assumes that an intelligence explosion is possible, and that it is possible for us to make a computer whose intelligence will explode. Then talks about ways to deal with it.
A lot of this book seems like pointless naval gazing, but I think some of it is worth reading.

Leonard Gaya
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In recent times, prominent figures such as Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Elon Musk have expressed serious concerns about the development of strong artificial intelligence technology, arguing that the dawn of super-intelligence might well bring about the end of mankind. Others, like Ray Kurzweil (who, admittedly, has gained some renown in professing silly predictions about the future of the human race), have an opposite view on the matter and maintain that AI is a blessing that will bestow utop ...more
As a software developer, I've cared very little for artificial intelligence (AI) in the past. My programs, which I develop professionally, have nothing to do with the subject. They’re dumb as can be and only following strict orders (that is rather simple algorithms). Privately I wrote a few AI test programs (with more or less success) and read a articles in blogs or magazines (with more or less interest). By and large I considered AI as not being relevant for me.

In March 2016 AlphaGo was introdu
Mar 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom is a hard book to recommend, but is one that thoroughly covers its subject. Superintelligence is a warning against developing artificial intelligence (AI). However, the writing is dry and systematic, more like Plato than Wired Magazine. There are few real world examples, because it's not a history of AI, but theoretic conjectures. The book explores the possible issues we might face if a superintelligent machine or life form is created. I would have enjoyed the b ...more
Jasmin Shah
Sep 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: AI Enthusiasts
Recommended to Jasmin by: Elon Musk
Never let a Seed AI read this book!
Robert Schertzer
I switched to the audio version of this book after struggling with the Kindle edition since I needed to read this for a book club. If you are looking for a book on artificial intelligence (AI), avoid this and opt for Jeff Hawkins' book "On Intelligence" written by someone who has devoted their life to the field. If it is one on "AI gone bad" you seek, try 2001 Space Odyssey. For a fictional approach on AI that helped set the groundwork for AI theory, go for Isaac Asimov. If you want a tedious, r ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates have recently raised the alarm about Artificial Intelligence. If a superhuman artificial intelligence were created it would be the biggest event in human history and it could very well be the last. We are only familiar with human intelligence and it may be a small sample from the possibilities of intelligence to be had. Bostrom makes the case that the most likely path to superintelligence would most likely be a hard takeoff as the AI would quickly rise once it reac ...more
Shea Levy
Read up through chapter 8. The book started out somewhat promisingly by not taking a stand on whether strong AI was imminent or not, but that was the height of what I read. I'm not sure there was a single section of the book where I didn't have a reaction ranging from "wait, how do you know that's true?" to "that's completely wrong and anyone with a modicum of familiarity with the field you're talking about would know that", but really it's the overall structure of the argument that led me to gi ...more
Travis sivarT
I'm not going to criticize the content. I cannot finish this. Imagine eating saltines when you have cotton mouth in the middle of the desert. You might be close to describing how dry the writing is. Could be very interesting read if the writing was done in a more attention grabbing way.
Diego Petrucci
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
There's no way around it: a super-intelligent AI is a threat.

We can safely assume that an AI smarter than a human, if developed, would accelerate its own development getting smarter at a rate faster than anything we'd ever seen. In just a few cycles of self-improvement it would spiral out of control. Trying to fight, or control, or hijack it, would be totally useless — for a comparison, try picturing an ant trying to outsmart a human being (a laughable attempt, at best).

But why is a super-intell
Rod Van Meter
May 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Is the surface of our planet -- and maybe every planet we can get our hands on -- going to be carpeted in paper clips (and paper clip factories) by a well-intentioned but misguided artificial intelligence (AI) that ultimately cannibalizes everything in sight, including us, in single-minded pursuit of a seemingly innocuous goal? Nick Bostrom, head of Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute, thinks that we can't guarantee it _won't_ happen, and it worries him. It doesn't require Skynet and Terminato ...more
Tammam Aloudat
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is at the same time a difficult to read and horrifying book. The progress that we may or will see from "dumb" machines into super-intelligent entities can be daunting to take in and absorb and the consequences can range from the extinction of human life all the way to a comfortable and effortlessly meaningful one.

The first issue with the book is the complexity. It is not only the complexity of the scientific concepts included, one can read the book without necessarily fully understanding th
Sep 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: mind, ai
An extraordinary achievement: Nick Bostrom takes a topic as intrinsically gripping as the end of human history if not the world and manages to make it stultifyingly boring.
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book isn’t for everyone, both due to its form and content. The readability is below par for people not used to reading technical articles. I’m pretty sure not even the author’s mother is able to love this Sahara-dry and often exaggeratedly technical language. However, don’t let decoding lo-fi ‘prose’ stop you. As for content - the ideas and suggestions presented in this book sent me on an emotional rollercoaster ride, and during the first half of the read I just felt like pushing the red sa ...more
Clare O'Beara
Feb 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-t, non-fiction, science
We are now building superintelligences. More than one. The author Nick Bostrom looks at what awaits us. He points out that controlling such a creation might not be easy. If unfriendly superintelligence comes about, we won't be able to change or replace it.
This is a densely written book, with small print, with 63 pages of notes and bibliography. In the introduction the author tells us twice that it was not easy to write. However he tries to make it accessible, and adds that if you don't understa
Richard Ash
Nov 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: computers
A few thoughts:
1. Very difficult topic to write about. There's so much uncertainty involved that it's almost impossible to even agree on the basic assumptions of the book.
2. The writing is incredibly thorough, given the assumptions, but also hard to understand. You need to follow the arguments closely and reread sections to fully understand their implications.

Overall, interesting and thought-provoking book even though the basic assumptions are debatable

P.S. (6 months later) Looking back on this
Jan 27, 2015 rated it liked it
The idea of artificial superintelligence (ASI) has long tantalized and taunted the human imagination, but only in recent years have we begun to analyze in depth the technical, strategic, and ethical problems of creating as well as managing advanced AI. Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies is a short, dense introduction to our most cutting-edge theories about how far off superintelligence might be, what it might look like if it arrives, and what the consequences might be f ...more
Ron Collins
Sep 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone on Earth
Lets say that I was a magical genie and that I asked you to list 5 things about your self that you wanted to improve and how you wanted to improve them. Then I asked you to rank them from 1 to 5. The I took the top one, waved my wand, and POOF that aspect of you was now as you had described.

Then, then next month, I asked you to do it all over again. List 5 things, describe and rank them. POOF! 12 monumental improvements of the span of a year! Now lets imagine that we did this once a week for a
Morgan Blackledge
Dec 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I’m late to the party as far a considering the dangers of artificial intelligence. I got this book after watching Sam Harris’s TED talk on the subject.

I’m still on the fence about whether to be afraid or psyched. Admittedly, I’m mostly the latter. But it is at least clear to me now that this is a pernicious intuition that deserves further interrogation.

On the fun side:

The topic is rich and generative of some really fun and interesting thought experiments.

On the fear side:

One can’t help but thin
Jon Anthony
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The proposition that we are living in a computer simulation is an exciting one to ponder. Bostrom delivers a very compelling and 'hard-to-dispute' argument.

This book is still one of my favorites. Please review his white paper titled "Are you living in a Computer Simulation?" for more context.
Nov 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016, science-tech
More detail than I needed on the subject, but I might rue that statement when the android armies are swarming Manhattan.

JK... for now.
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Do you know the ballad of John Henry? It’s my absolute favorite tall-tale.

John Henry was a railroad worker – a steel-drivin’ man – who hammered steel pistons into rock to make holes for dynamite sticks for tunnel blasting. He took great pride in his work, but one day, some fancy schmancy inventor showed up with a steam-powered drill. John Henry knew the adoption of such a machine would mean the loss of his and his friends’ jobs, so he challenged the drill to a race, mano a máquina.

With a song on
Jun 13, 2015 marked it as to-read-3rd
Recommended to Richard by: Scott
I was told by a Futurist acquaintance that this essay over at Wait, But Why...? offers a précis of this book. Or at least Google suggested this was the most likely essay.

  • The foregoing doesn’t explicitly link to Bostrom’s book so this might not be right — it spends too much time on Kurzweil’s thesis, so I suspect it’s not the correct one. And the author has drunk the Kurzweil Kool-Aid and it enthusiastically peddling it to others without any critical evaluations. Of course, everything here li
David Dinaburg
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
It is a truly impressive feat to alienate a reader with your fundamental hypothesis and still create a book said reader wants to continue to read. I virulently disagreed—even after finishing—with most of the presuppositions within Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. Often, this type of foundational disjointedness compels me to contemptfully spite-read something with extreme care so as to more fully pick it apart. In this case—though I continued to disagree often and wholeheartedly—I ...more
Kayson Fakhar
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
interesting and detailed possible problems and solutions/strategies to deal with those problems for when a super intelligent AI arises. Overall I think we're done when they come!
Abhishek Tiwari
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
I decided to give this book a try after its mention in the Waitbutwhy article on AI revolution. The first few chapters extensively cover general aspects of AI. Later parts of the book gets quite philosophical with Epistemology and Esotericism, specially the section on AI motivation and goals . Bostrom definitely has put forward various far fetched scenarios here. Many of the conjectures have been derived from his own earlier work.

To someone unfamiliar with AI there is quite a lot to grasp from t
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Nick Bostrom is Professor at Oxford University, where he is the founding Director of the Future of Humanity Institute. He also directs the Strategic Artificial Intelligence Research Center. He is the author of some 200 publications, including Anthropic Bias (Routledge, 2002), Global Catastrophic Risks (ed., OUP, 2008), Human Enhancement (ed., OUP, 2009), and Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Stra ...more
More about Nick Bostrom
“Far from being the smartest possible biological species, we are probably better thought of as the stupidest possible biological species capable of starting a technological civilization - a niche we filled because we got there first, not because we are in any sense optimally adapted to it.” 44 likes
“Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an “intelligence explosion,” and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make, provided that the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control.” 19 likes
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