Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life When Robots Rule the Earth” as Want to Read:
The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life When Robots Rule the Earth
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life When Robots Rule the Earth

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  302 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
Robots may one day rule the world, but what is a robot-ruled Earth like?
Many think the first truly smart robots will be brain emulations or "ems." Scan a human brain, then run a model with the same connections on a fast computer, and you have a robot brain, but recognizably human.
Train an em to do some job and copy it a million times: an army of workers is at your dispos
...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published April 1st 2016 by Oxford University Press
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Age of Em, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Age of Em

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
|
Filter
Mark Hebwood
Sep 12, 2016 rated it did not like it
Frustration and Incredulity

Well... this was a complete waste of time, a surprisingly pointless and, dare I say it, sloppy, attempt at projecting a possible future.

An era in which brain simulations run on computer hardware and allow the original owner of the consciousness to live on forever in her digitalised incarnation holds astounding opportunities, and intimidating risks. Such a technology would potentially alter society into something that differs from what we know today at the level of its
...more
Brian Clegg
Jun 07, 2016 rated it liked it
I recently said about Timandra Harkness's Big Data, 'welcome to the brave new world', but if there were ever a book to fully reflect Shakespeare's complete original line in The Tempest, 'O brave new world that has such people in't', it is surely Robin Hanson's new book The Age of Em.

I don't know if it was done so the book title would echo 'age of empire' , but I find the author's term for uploaded personalities 'ems' a little contrived, like many made-up names - it's just a bit too short for wha
...more
Atila Iamarino
Um livro muito estranho, para dizer o mínimo. É um exercício de predição dos melhores, em uma situação muito peculiar, um futuro onde simulações de mentes humanas imperam como uma nova forma de computação. Me valeu bem mais pelos insights sobre o presente que Robin Hanson usa para extrapolar o futuro do que o cenário futuro em si, que são excelentes.

A abordagem dele de economia e sociologia para entender o presente e falar sobre o futuro é bem diferente da maioria e, espero, inspiradora. Mas o
...more
Clare O'Beara
Mar 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: i-t, non-fiction, science
Ems or robot/computer brain emulations of people, are the subject of this book, with sociological implications and a note that this may be a short section of the future, replaced by something even stranger. I'm puzzled that the author speculates that ems will 'live' in a few major cities which don't have humans and the humans will all go and retire. Where to? There's already not enough land to house and feed the seven billion of us plus the few billion who'll be coming along in the next few year ...more
Jayson Virissimo
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Futurism, but without pretending social science doesn't exist.
Hadrian
Long speculative study based on the assumption that simulating human brains becomes possible (then cheaper and more practical), and then goes to the effort of seeing what a human society would look like from there. Goes to the effort of guessing what fatigues these simulated humans ('ems' he calls them), but also speculates about the minutiae. Three pages about the future of swearing. Three pages about the future of democracy.

Why go to the effort of simulating human brains instead of using 'nar
...more
Gavin Leech
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Believe me that it's remarkable; it's easily in the top 5 most insightful books out of the 500 I have reviewed here. I called Superintelligence the most rigorous exploration of the nonreal I had ever read: this beats it by a lot. You will find yourself reading pages on the properties of coolant pipes and be utterly engrossed. It is imaginary sociology, imaginary economics, real fiction.

(But it lacks an ethnography entirely: no em speaks to us themselves.)

People tend to wrap Age of Em in ulterio
...more
Nathan Taylor
Jun 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Robin Hanson has written the best book I've ever read on what the future may hold. Rather than explore many alternative possibilities, he deliberately picks a single future scenario to explore in great depth. Then leaves to others to work out alternates, building from his baseline. Hanson's chosen scenario is one where humans upload their minds to computers to create human emulations or ems. He uses standard social and physical science to grind out the details of what this world might look like. ...more
Garrett Petersen
Jun 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
[Full disclosure: I invited Robin Hanson onto my podcast, Economics Detective Radio, to discuss the book. You can hear the full interview here.]

There's so much to love in this book.

Hanson starts his foray into futurism with the assumption that we will eventually develop the technical ability to create human whole brain emulations, or "ems." That is, we will be able to scan a brain in all its detail, then simulate the functioning of that brain sufficiently well to have it mimic the thought proces
...more
David Gross
May 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: geeky, non-fiction
It's looking increasingly likely that eventually we'll be clever enough to create artificial intelligence with at least human-level capability. Two likely ways we might do this are 1) to increase the sophistication and coordination of our intelligent algorithms, or, 2) to learn how to simulate the human brain in a computer in such a way that the simulation has equivalent capabilities to the original brain. Hanson puts his bets on the second option happening first, and has written this book to ex ...more
Athena
Nov 17, 2017 rated it liked it
I really don’t know what to make of this book. It was on my bedside table for more than 3 weeks. This is very, very unusual. It is not that I couldn’t read it, it was actually quite interesting but I could manage only a few pages at a time, and that’s because I needed time to think about and reflect on what I had just read. It sounded so weird and so unbelievable that I wasn’t sure if this was a serious work from an accomplished academic, as Dr Robin Hanson, or a science fiction dystopia. Perhap ...more
George
Jul 18, 2017 rated it liked it
I was torn by this book. The examination of a future world with human-mind-brain emulations (hence 'em') was a fascinating idea which is why I snapped up the book.

However, the outcome was a science fiction world without a storyline. The author clearly has done a lot of research and thinking about this possible future world, but chapters examining infrastructure of this world, politics and families were a bit...boring. I heartily encourage anyone who is writing science fiction about this world o
...more
Andrei Khrapavitski
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
The work of a futurist is rarely appreciated. It is extremely hard to predict the future. Sci-Fi authors like to portray a distant future either as a dystopia where life is barely worth living or as some amazing paradise of abundance.
This work is different. Robin Hanson is an economist, and his portrayal of the world of full brain emulations or Ems is based on his reading of our current political and economic theories. He tries to imagine the world of ems through our current prism. Of course, s
...more
Gaspar
Apr 13, 2016 rated it it was ok
To be honest I thought this book will be like the book "The next 100 years" by George Friedman. I was wrong.

This book is about a very very very specific future scenario where there are a few relegated humans and the majority of the population is made by ems (shorter for brain emulations). Some of this ems live in a virtual world and a few live in the physical world. The author makes a very thorough and detailed explanation of this fictional future and spend most of the book outlining the organiz
...more
Aaron
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a pretty mindblowing book. I've thought more than most about the distant future, robot uprisings, colonizing other planets, entering a Matrix or San Junipero-type simulation, etc., to the extent that I'm even signed up for cryonics to increase my chances of being there. But I realize now I had not thought about the real implications of having the technology to scan brains and emulate them on computer hardware. Robin Hanson has. He lays out a baseline, "least weird" scenario of what the ...more
Arnaud De Herrypon
Jun 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Age of EM is a wonderful exercise in "world Building", that is science fiction without the plot and characters. I particularly recommend the book if, like me, you often get frustrated with the superficiality of the background against which, otherwise, good futuristic stories take place (implausible dystopian political institutions, technological incoherence etc..). Robin Hanson, an economics professor known for his eclecticism (he trained in physics, worked as an AI researcher, studied many ...more
Thomas
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was going to rate this book a 3/5. However, for sheer idea/concept per page value it is easily a 5/5. The writing may be dry and fairly methodical (possibly a positive?) and there are definitely some gripes with the methods (for example Hanson cites a statistically insignificant study on marriage at one point) but overall this book certainly delivers. It isn't so much about conceptualising ONE future as the most likely, but more about conceptualising ONE PLAUSIBLE future, with the main intent ...more
Matthew
May 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Robin's book creates a unique genre that anyone who is interested in the trajectory of humanity in the next century should embrace. Hanson makes the point that far more people are historians that futurists. Futurism has been left to Sci-Fi and is often compelling but lacking in either economic or scientific rigor. Hanson actually is a good historian in the book and extrapolates a future that is hinted at by Sci-fi but explained in rational way in this book. He may be right or he may be wrong. It ...more
Tyler Fisher
Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
A brave attempt at predicting the future from a former professor of mine. This book imagines the world after brain emmulation technology has arrived. That is, a technology that allows a humans brain to be copied, and for that em to do thinking and living on its own. A crazy topic, but only one that can be understood by picking up the book.

At times technical, academic and repetitive it can be hard to read, but anyone who finishes is left with a great reward: a serious study of our future. And, a
...more
Nick
Jul 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
I would read this not so much for an accurate prediction about the future [0] , but rather for a holistic look at how Robin Hanson views the world, with insight into economics, business, politics, and society. This book serves as a great survey of, e.g., the qualities that distinguish the best workers, the most important factors determining economic growth and firms' success, and inefficiencies in political/social systems and how they respond to drastic changes like the arrival of ems.

[0] See ht
...more
Sean
Sep 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Wasn't quite what I was expecting -- I just gave it a skim after reading the introduction and first chapter. Very interesting concept, but not something I'm looking to spend a lot of time on today.

Note to self: revisit if/when brain uploading becomes a thing.
Santino Maguire
Oct 09, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book was a slog -- couldn't force myself to finish it. The concepts are interesting enough, but the writing is drryyyyyy.
Kevin Rhodes
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
The best and only thing I've read that fully explores an alternate existence with new kinds of beings. This is scientific futurism. True? False? Who knows. But a fascinating, informative exercise.
Thore Husfeldt
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Futurism done right.

Hanson explores a scenario based on a single, plausible technological and scientific breakthrough: “mind uploading,” i.e., the possibility of copying the brain/mind of a human and running the resulting copy on computer hardware. This scenario does not assume a vast improvement in our understanding of neuroanatomy (after all, the mind is merely copied and its behaviour simulated, not understood), nor does it posit artificial general intelligence.

All Hanson assumes is copy-and-
...more
Shawn
May 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science, psychology
An extremely speculative and extremely detailed look at a possible future for humanity (or what it may become.) Hanson sees ems (computer emulations of human brains) arriving sometime in the next century, while viewing actual artificial intelligence of human or greater capability as unlikely to come sooner than three or four hundred years from now. (His reasons for believing that emulation will be so much easier aren't very clear.)

Once they do arrive, he sees ems (descendants or copies of proba
...more
Warren Mcpherson
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
An exercise in predicting the future. The book feels like a long, dry backgrounder for a dystopian movie. It does serve as a demonstration of the challenges of projecting a future state of a complex system like our entire society.

The book describes an imagined scenario where computers emulate human minds. The author expects a robot 1.5mm tall would operate a thousand times faster than a real human, he sets out to describe the needs, social organizations and wages of these emulations. The text ev
...more
Chad
Oct 31, 2016 rated it it was ok
This is an amazingly well researched book that presents an incredible amount of information about the upcoming age of emulations. Robin Hanson has done a lot of very deep thinking about the way the em world will be, and short of being there and examining it and seeing that it’s different from depicted, I have no reason to doubt any of the conclusions Hanson has made. He cites references to back up each of his claims, tells you when he is uncertain, examines the amount of uncertainty, and discuss ...more
Tony Boyles
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that I kind of love, but won't recommend.

Hanson starts out by (paying lip service to the rich Sci-Fi history of the concept) and then constructing a rationale for why it is likely to actually occur at some point in the future. However, the majority of the text is devoted to investigating the consequences of such technologies, and the society of Ems that should emerge. In this, Hanson succeeded in his stated goal of writing a work that should read like an anthropology textbook, onl
...more
Jon Norimann
Sep 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics
The Age of Em discusses how a brain uploaded to a computer will be living life. It also discusses how internet cities of such brains will change the rest of the world and various other related issues.

Social science rather than computer science is the angle of attack, although tech issues are covered aswell. The technology assumed is highly speculative although just within what one can reasonably hope gets available in the next 100 years or so. Inferring consequences of such a technology is then
...more
Fraser Kinnear
Jul 16, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: sci-fi, science
I picked this up based on a recommendation from one of my favorite bloggers, Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution. I got about halfway through and gave up on it.

The majority of this book is forecasting how the world would look with mind emulators ("Ems"), which create for us the Singularity before any previously defined artificial intelligence software would.

While it was fun in a sci-fi kind of way to read ideas regarding how life would be different for Ems, it's also such enormous speculation
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • A course in Game Theory
  • The Elements of Power: Gadgets, Guns, and the Struggle for a Sustainable Future in the Rare Metal Age
  • Privacy: A Very Short Introduction
  • Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 1: Introductory Orientations
  • The Wide Lens
  • Roald Dahl: A Biography
  • What to Think About Machines That Think: Today's Leading Thinkers on the Age of Machine Intelligence
  • Rationality: From AI to Zombies
  • Archimedes to Hawking: Laws of Science and the Great Minds Behind Them
  • Algorithms Unlocked
  • The Scientist as Rebel
  • The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces
  • Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized
  • Quantum Computing Since Democritus
  • Her-2: The Making of Herceptin, a Revolutionary Treatment for Breast Cancer
  • Smarter Than Us: The Rise of Machine Intelligence
  • Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future
  • D Is for Digital: What a Well-Informed Person Should Know about Computers and Communications

Nonfiction Deals

  • The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery
    $14.99 $2.99
  • Real Artists Don't Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Never Stop Walking: A Memoir of Finding Home Across the World
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Life Lessons from Matthew
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness
    $11.99 $3.99
  • Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Voice of Knowledge: A Practical Guide to Inner Peace
    $9.99 $2.99
  • My Mother Was Nuts
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Brotherhood: Dharma, Destiny, and the American Dream
    $7.99 $0.99
  • Final Vows
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Chosen by a Horse: a memoir
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made
    $17.99 $1.99
  • John Quincy Adams
    $12.99 $3.99
  • Easy Soups from Scratch with Quick Breads to Match: 70 Recipes to Pair and Share
    $15.99 $2.99
  • By Myself and Then Some
    $11.74 $1.99
  • The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery (A Toltec Wisdom Book)
    $9.99 $2.49
  • Shakespeare Never Did This
    $6.99 $1.99
  • No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green
    $6.99 $1.99
  • Wish You Happy Forever: What China's Orphans Taught Me About Moving Mountains
    $14.74 $1.99
  • The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools?
    $12.99 $2.99
  • Leaving Microsoft to Change the World
    $12.74 $1.99
  • People Over Profit: Break the System, Live with Purpose, Be More Successful
    $13.49 $0.99
  • The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land
    $9.24 $1.99
  • The Supreme Gift
    $2.99 $1.49
  • Fly a Little Higher: How God Answered One Mom's Small Prayer in a Big Way
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why
    $9.99 $2.99
  • How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain
    $5.99 $1.99
  • But I Could Never Go Vegan!: 125 Recipes That Prove You Can Live Without Cheese, It's Not All Rabbit Food, and Your Friends Will Still Come Over for Dinner
    $18.50 $3.99
  • The Family Gene: A Mission to Turn My Deadly Inheritance into a Hopeful Future
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Life Lessons from Ephesians
    $5.99 $1.99
  • A Marriage in Dog Years
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Trusting God Day by Day: 365 Daily Devotions
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Founding Mothers
    $8.74 $1.99
  • Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation (Kindle Edition)
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the Oligarchs—A True Story of Ambition, Wealth, Betrayal, and Murder
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Ida: A Sword Among Lions
    $8.24 $2.99
  • Unsinkable: A Memoir
    $9.24 $1.99
  • The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home
    $11.99 $2.99
  • The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever
    $7.95 $2.49
  • Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy
    $12.99 $3.99
  • Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Reaper: Autobiography of One of the Deadliest Special Ops Snipers
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In
    $9.99 $2.99
  • On Becoming a Novelist
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe
    $17.99 $1.99
  • SACRED JOURNEY OF THE PEACEFUL WARRIOR
    $9.32 $3.49
  • The Devil Soldier: The American Soldier of Fortune Who Became a God in China
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate
    $9.99 $2.99
“To counter all these biases, both in my readers, and in myself, I try to move my estimates in the following directions. I try to be less confident, to expect typical outcomes to be more ordinary, but also to expect more deviations from typical outcomes. I try to rely more on ordinary methods, sources, and assumptions, and also more on statistics or related systems and events.

I expect bigger deviations from traditional images of the future, but also rely less on strange, exotic, unlikely-seeming, and hypothetical possibilities. Looking backward, future folk should see their world as changing less from their past than we might see looking forward. Seen up close and honestly, I expect the future usually to look like most places: mundane, uninspiring, and morally ambiguous, with grand hopes and justifications often masking lives of quiet desperation. Of course, lives of quiet desperation can still be worth living.”
1 likes
“Humans who attend directly to vivid cases [of inequality] are capable of great empathy with inequality losers. They are also capable of great compassion and even a desire to help. However, we humans are also quite capable of avoiding contact and exposure that might produce such compassion, and of numbing ourselves to the plight of losers about whom it would be inconvenient to feel empathy. So rich people avoid visiting poor neighborhoods and nations, attractive people avoid socializing with the ugly, and pretty young women become numb to the losses of the men they reject.” 1 likes
More quotes…