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

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  453 ratings  ·  61 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
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 24th 2018 by Atria Books
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Oct 10, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: science
I need to be more selective...
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.
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
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.
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.
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,
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
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
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
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!
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
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. ...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 ...more
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 ...more
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. ...more
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 ...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
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The topics covered in this book are vast: history, philosophy, science, religion, intelligence, economics, humanity, and on and on. Yet somehow nothing is glossed over, every topic is explored in fascinating detail.
This is one of those rare books that offers food for thought rather than trying to sell you on a particular view. I especially like how the author presents multiple positions and explains each in a way that challenges you think about where you stand. I often found this to
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For me, this is the definitive introductory book on all the topics mentioned in the title. It's easy enough to grasp when your technical knowledge is limited. The author offers several different theories and beliefs about the nature of humanity and does so with more neutrality than I could muster. Lots of things were better elaborated on in Homo Deus, but Harari's book was also more scattered (even though I enjoyed that one as well).

The audio version was well narrated.

Note that there are few
Chris Hansen
Nov 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Guided tour of the current technological age through stories

Reese is a fantastic story teller. This is the guy you want at your cocktail parties, or tucking your kids into bed. He’s also an expert at the technical and sociological present, and how developments on the horizon are set to change both. Reese offers a thorough explanation of Artificial Intelligence that is both interesting to the tech geek and to those outside of the industry. He is able to position the opposing views of industry
Kevin Pedersen
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
A good book about the philosophical questions around the question of the singularity, written by someone who actually approaches this in a smart way and who doesn't sound like a ranting street-corner prophet. It leaves the question of the future of AI open-ended, but presents the possibilities in a way that feels reasoned and realistic. And the author is not afraid to just conclude that some things are still unclear.

There's some bad pop-science-essay dad-joke humor in here, but I guess that's
Sep 11, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. Much of the book's value comes from its synopsis of the assumptions that drive the many divergent forecasts of futurists' and other intellectuals' with regards to the timeline of artificial intelligence development. The author does a good job of remaining objective until the end, where he optimistically and over-simplistically writes about poverty, disease, hunger, energy, and leisure time.

I saw the author speak at an event and he was an engaging speaker who clearly researched the
Harsh V.
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Well ! Almost finished ! Had to leave the last about 60 pages, as was returning from the US !
However, gone through the core of the subject. A brilliantly handled very complex, almost metaphysical, topic to make it comprehensible. By splitting AI into two, achievable vs improbable, Byron Reese has brilliantly enabled the reader to identify with the the Fourth Age and it's effects on the Future of Humanity.
Jun 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Best part of the book was the analysis of how AI will take over the labor market.
Best part of the philosophy was laying out the different views, though the explanation of those views was shallow.
Last section on the future of humanity was boring and just like every other book out there about technology and the future. Should have focused just on AI.
Cherryls Books
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very interesting exploration of the modern day realties around robotics and it's potential to change humanity as we know it. The book challenges you to think about your stance and contemplate the impact of things like transhumanism, robots replacing human labour power and the ability of robots/computers to compete with the human brain/mind.
Oct 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: own, science-tech
A different angle on a well written futurology topic. The author provides a framework to evaluate where the future might be headed based on basic philosophical principles. Quick read but leaves much to consider.

Not a treatise on how AI or ML functions, merely an approach on what the impacts may be.
Peter Sidell
The author review some of the central questions we face in understanding where we are going with the development of Artificial Intelligence. He reviews many developments and some persistent limitations - such as we don't understand consciousness, and can't even model the tiny brain of some tiny worms. He clarifies some of the challenges facing humanity as the age of technology goes on.
Matt Leiv
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fantastic read about the coming of artificial intelligence and what it may mean to the human race. It's a mix of science and philosophy, based on trends of the past. Lots of great questions are asked and the author gives their viewpoint on them as well. This book is a great intro to AI, as well as a thought provoking piece for those already familiar with AI.
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