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The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  754 ratings  ·  91 reviews
The Fourth Age not only discusses what the rise of A.I. will mean for us, it also forces readers to challenge their preconceptions. And it manages to do all this in a way that is both entertaining and engaging.” —The New York Times

As we approach a great turning point in history when technology is poised to redefine what it means to be human, The Fourth Age offers fascina
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 24th 2018 by Atria Books
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Alisa Wilhelm
Soooo interesting. This book isn’t so much about the technical aspects of AI and robotics; it’s much more about applied philosophy and what we believe about the essence of humanity, consciousness, and intelligence. If you are writing some speculative fiction, this book is chock full of ideas for you.
Jolanta (knygupe)
Oct 10, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: science
I need to be more selective...
Edward Smith
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent Read. The focus of his book is around Artificial Intelligence (AI) and more specifically around AGI -Artificial General Intelligence i.e the ability of Computers to Learn, to apply existing knowledge to new unique scenarios and to derive a new resolution not previously known to them.

The author has an inkling we will get there at some point but the answer is not around the corner as some believe. One of the biggest hurdles we face is that while we know a lot about the brain on a physic
Izabela Kańtoch
Aug 11, 2020 rated it liked it
It is a nice book to read if you want to have understanding what are concerns related do further AI development. There are multiple well-asked questions, that encourage the contemplation. However it's not the life-changing book, or if a reader already has some knowledge about the topic, they won't find much new information in it. ...more
Paul Cumbo
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Compelling, terrifying, and ironically optimistic, all at once.
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very thought-provoking book about AI and how technology will impact humanity in the future. Reese's approach to the subject is optimistic, humorous, and very readable. The history of humanity's relationship with technology is absolutely fascinating, and helps put the current tech into perspective. Whether you're deeply immersed in the world of technology or new to the subject and just a bit curious, I highly recommend this book. ...more
May 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was awesome. Very philosophical, but not very opinionated. I appreciate when an author can present a deep and developed exploration of ideas without inserting himself into it. This book is a great intro to the philosophy behind AI and the future of work, especially as we stand on the precipice of the 4th Industrial Revolution, defined by machine learning and AI. I highly recommend reading this book, but if you don't want to, here are my overly-detailed notes:

In the last 100,000 years,
Aug 11, 2019 rated it liked it
I've read a couple of books about some of these topics, so not much of this is new to me. But, it has been a couple of years since my last book in this vein, so this is a decent refresher rather than an unwelcome retread.

The tone is light, so it reads like a large web magazine article.
Sheng Zeng
Nov 16, 2019 rated it liked it
A philosophical take on the role of technology and AI in our current digital world. It raises interesting ideas but can be a bit too optimistic for my liking.
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This one analyzes the AI and the near future in a more positive light, providing reasonable arguments. Another one from Bill Gates' list for the year and another one to re-read because of the density. A lot to digest and ponder upon.

In the last 100,000 years, we've had only three massive changes that changed humanity as a whole:
100,000 years ago, we harnessed fire, which led to language (cooked meat = better health/more nutrients/developed brains)
10,000 years ago, we developed agriculture, which
Charlie White
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There have been a lot of books written recently about artificial intelligence (AI) and the upcoming age of smart robots equipped with artificial general intelligence (AGI). This book offers an excellent platform from which to start diving into this promising and fascinating technology.

What I like most about this book, and why I’m giving it this five-star review, is that it takes an optimistic view of the future of artificial intelligence without pulling any punches. Its author, Byron Reese, has
Dec 14, 2018 rated it did not like it
The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity by Byron Reese could have been really good if only it wasn't riddled with so many grammatical errors. :'-( Repeated words, completely missing words, and words in the wrong order (was this down to the editor?) were liberally spread through the entire book which really took away from my enjoyment. I felt that what he was trying to accomplish with this book was interesting but I'm not entirely sure that he accomplished hi ...more
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
‘Deconstructing the core beliefs that undergird the various views on robots, jobs, AI, and consciousness.’

Texas Entrepreneur/speaker/author Byron Reese is the CEO and Publisher of Gigaom, one of the world’s leading technology research companies, and regularly writes at Gigaom Publisher’s Corner. He brings his experience as a technologist, his passion for history, and his proven business acumen to illuminate how today’s technology can solve many of our biggest global challenges. According to Byro
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: phd-studies
A fascinating if also frustrating peek into recent developments in AI, robotics, conscious computers and the next species-wide evolutionary step for the human race. The fascinating parts are the unconventional candidates for technology throughout the millennia: fire, language, agriculture, wheels, etc. and the philosophical and naughts into how the latest developments might work out. The frustrating part was trying to figure out on what authority Reese stakes so many claims. His bio makes him ou ...more
May 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
Yet another book about the three technological ages of humanity that does not contain the words 'Alvin Toffler', author of arguably the most famous book ever written about futurism: "The Third Wave" in 1980. It, along with his book 'Future Shock' arguably invented the modern concept of futurism itself.

Have some courage, sir. At least acknowledge the history of the idea your book is based around. Expanding on the ideas of others is normal and good. But you didn't invent this, and it's embarrassin
Robert Ferber
Jan 16, 2019 rated it did not like it
library book. Great title and a great topic, but unfortunately I was not impressed with the author's thinking. The question the book tries to answer is whether artificial intelligence that is conscious can be created (answer: no one knows since we barely understand what consciousness is) and what this will mean (answer: your opinion is as good as mine). The book finishes with a view of a utopian world in which poverty, disease, ignorance, war, and death are all but banished...thanks to AI. Nice ...more
Avishek Ghosh
Jan 16, 2020 rated it liked it
A great book with detailed exploration on the length and breadth of Ai and past, existing and future trajectory. What this book masterfully delivers is a very thoughtful discussion on the socio-economic telemetry as a product of the different degree of possibilities associated with break-through in AI. One of the best non-fiction I read so far.
Rob Enderle
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really fascinating book, great look into the future of robotics and AI. Like all forward looking books there is a lot you can disagree with (the author isn't psychic after all) but it gets you thinking about the topic and his points are well argued. ...more
Fuzzball Baggins
Jul 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
There were no original ideas in this book, and there were logic fallacies all over the place. It was so frustrating to read!
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant! I couldn't imagine a better way to comprehensively guide a reader through the topic of AI, robotics and everything related to it. ...more
Luana Spinetti
Dec 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: robotics, science
Because disclaimers always come first, I have to tell you that a representative of GigaOM reached out to me on Twitter in 2018 asking if I wanted to read the book and sent me an EPUB. I started reading and I liked it so much that I decided to buy the paperback as soon as it became available on Amazon.

That said, this is an unbiased review – with the only “bias”, if you allow me, being my unconditional love of machines.

But this book is more on the human than on the machine. In fact, the author Byr
R.J. Gilmour
Aug 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Reese, a publisher and tech CEO looks into the possibility of smart robots and AI in the near future. The book is an explanation of possibilities, exploring how we define not only AI, but at the same time humanity and consciousness.

"The invention of the printing press, and its widespread use, increased literacy and the free flow of information. This was the main catalyst that launched our modern world way back in the seventeenth century. And, perhaps, modernity got an unexpected boost from some
Ahmed Qadir
Alec Ross dedicated an entire chapter on artificial intelligence and another on robotics in his 2016 book, THE INDUSTRIES OF THE FUTURE. Klaus Schwab dedicates an entire book to the FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION that will be underpinned by, among other things, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.
The more recent addition to the repository of books on artificial intelligence and robotics is Byron Reese’s book, THE FOURTH AGE: SMART ROBOTS, CONSCIOUS COMPUTERS, AND THE FUTURE OF HUMAN
George ikilikjan
Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be: ANNOYING.

At a certain he was just breaking my balls. Regarding the topic of AI it’s really superficial and the author is merely scratching the surface.

At one third of this book I considered stop reading. It's written in a similar style of of Malcolm Gladwell and Stephen R. Covey. Byron Reese Skillfully avoids answering the essential questions with dull 95% contextual information. I think this book can be reduced to a 35-50 page book.

He spe
Shinabhat Maneerin
Despite bearing such a highly technical sounded topic and one may misunderstand or mistaken the book to be genuinely technical from the cover picture, the book actually provides a comprehensive explanation, combining philosophical, historical and also technical approaches in its narrative.

The book does not provide 'predictions', but instead explore humanity's capabilities, considering both our past and present progresses, particularly what are the futuristic processes we are currently working on
Rohan Parikh
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-bookshelf
"The Fourth Age" by Bryon Reese is an excellent piece of nonfiction about humanities' future. It talks about the past first by stating how we got here. The First Age started with the invention of fire. With the ability to cook meat, our body was able to take in more calories than raw meat \and as a result, grow. Our brain grew and language was invented. The Second Age was agriculture. With the discovery of agriculture, humans did not have to move around anymore. Massive towns were developed. Eve ...more
Dawn Tessman
Nov 15, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. This book covers peoples’ dependency on computers and the various theoretical impacts Artificial Intelligence may have on humanity as technological advancements extend beyond weak AI (e.g., Siri) and lead to conscious computers. While many arguments are made touting the benefits of such advancements, I think the most profound cautionary statement is this: “As Steve Wozniak said, ‘All of a sudden, we’ve lost a lot of control. We can’t turn off our Internet; we can’t turn off our smartp ...more
David Shinabarger
Dec 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Ok introduction into the current era of the information era, increasing income inequality, social disconnection, etc. This is all escalated to the highest end due to the pandemic where we don't interact with people much at all face to face, everything is done online, and our shopping is all from papa bezos.

With this book, there's just not much story to it, so it reads like a textbook.

There are some good lines, and I think the overall thesis of the book is solid, but it's pretty long and uninte
Aug 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
I am not one for non-fiction, I find it beyond boring. But I really enjoyed this book, I truly did. I have become fascinated with A.I. for some unknown reason. So, I was super excited to pick up this book. I actually really enjoyed all the background knowledge talked through to get to the point. This book is a more philosophical than i imagined. It has so many perspectives as well. It, also, gave me hope in humanity. I feel, as humans, we always focus on the worst possible outcome/possibility. W ...more
Nov 18, 2019 rated it liked it
A well put together book about the possibility, dangers and varieties of developing artificial intelligence (AI) for those starting out on the subject.
The best parts of the book are the small tangents and thought experiments that offer interesting follow-ups for this book, ranging from related topics to tangential.
Although this is a great and easy read for newcomers and goes somewhat in depth, someone who has looked into AI with moderate interest will find little new insight beyond those anecd
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