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Possible Minds: 25 Ways of Looking at AI

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  459 ratings  ·  70 reviews
Science world luminary John Brockman assembles twenty-five of the most important scientific minds, people who have been thinking about the field artificial intelligence for most of their careers, for an unparalleled round-table examination about mind, thinking, intelligence and what it means to be human.

"Artificial intelligence is today's story--the story behind all other
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published February 19th 2019 by Penguin Press
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Alex This is a nontechnical book for the greatest part. Certain concepts will be very familiar if one has spent some time studying AI, and understanding ho…moreThis is a nontechnical book for the greatest part. Certain concepts will be very familiar if one has spent some time studying AI, and understanding how different approaches to ML/AI work from a technical standpoint will help in evaluating the arguments made by certain authors with respect to hypothetical future scenarios, but these are not necessary for a lay reader to get thought-provoking material out of the book.(less)

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Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The last book I read by Brockman left me feeling quite inadequate. This one was far more understandable, although parts still sailed over my head. Still, it's more philosophy & history than technical. Brockman asked 25 of the best & brightest to consider The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society* & subsequent milestones to comment on Artificial Intelligence (AI). They're all working in or with the field today, so their essays range from art to AGI (Artificial General Intelligence), ...more
May 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book should have another title and I'm not sure exactly what that should be. Something like "The Norbert Wiener's Cybernetics Book Club" or "A bunch of smart people muse about something a mediocre book from 70 years ago might have gotten right about AI". This is not a book about people musing about "Way of Looking at AI". This is a book of essays by people reflecting on the works of Norbert Wiener who wrote Cybernetics in 1948, over 70 years before this book was published. Sure, some of wha ...more
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: new-sciences
A lot is going on in Possible Minds. John Brockman has pulled together twenty-five best minds on the subject. These luminaries have thought deep and hard on the subject for decades, have done their in-depth studies, written books, and honed views further after fielding a good deal of feedback. Their articles in this journal result from all these apart from their superior ability to think. All individual contributions are brief, providing only summaries of views. These summaries would leave one f ...more
Charlotte Dungan
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-books
I received an ARC copy from Mr. Brockman due to my work in the AI4K12 national educational guidelines group (they will be published spring 2019).

Possible Minds builds on the work at and from the book that resulted called What to Think about Machines That Think. While those essays were much shorter and offered a plethora of perspectives that are great for developing a broad perspective on AI, Possible Minds goes much deeper. Many of the writers incorporate reflections on the predictions
Miri Niedrauer
May 10, 2019 rated it liked it
While I would gladly give 5 stars to the concept of this book, much of the actual content leaves something to be desired. Brockman collects essays from 25 of the most brilliant minds around regarding their thoughts on Artificial Intelligence. While only time can determine to what extent we can create intelligence or consciousness, there is a disturbing contradiction in the essays of many contributors.
Many of the writers concur that, while still not fully understood, human consciousness is the r
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
very clear writing on different views on the future of AI and human civilization.
David Miller
Nov 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Some of the essays are easily 4 or 5 stars , so it’s a bit hard to assign a single score ...
Edward B.
I have read numerous other collections by John Brockman and quite enjoyed them and, indeed, recommend them. This one, not so much.
(By the way, "collection" is not quite the right word - he didn't just curate existing essays, he sought out appropriate experts and solicited these essays on a very particular topic. As most of his publications are.)
On the whole, I found this collection to be, frankly, kind of boring.
Each essay stands on its own, and there's no synthesis, no point/counterpoint; even
Ronin Winter
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ai-and-cs
John Brockman has condensed a collection of essays from some of the leading thinkers and researchers in the field of AI and other related fields such as philosophy, physics, computer science, and neuroscience.

One of my favourite essays was by Judea Pearl titled " The limitations of opaque learning machines." Judea Pearl played a pivotal role in the paradigm shift of the approach of learning in ai systems; shifting from a rule-based approach to statistical and probabilistic reasoning. Yet, he la
th shunk
Are The Robots Coming For Us?

This is a grab-bag of rather short, quick-take essays by people associated with the AI community about the possible future of AI, and in particular, the development of general artificial intelligence. Many well-respected engineers have warned us recently that general AI may soon reach a tipping point where it cannot be stopped and cannot be bent to the will of humankind.

Some of these essays struck me as full of insight, some not so much. No questions are answered, bu
Mar 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read_2019
I'm going to need to revisit more than a handful of these chapters and, honestly, that might push this up to five stars. A few of the chapters were not terribly impressive and left me feeling like this was just an excuse for a rant, not that I don't have sympathy for the concerns (and counter concerns) that were raised about the dangers (and wonders) of AI, but the really interesting essays mostly avoided that entirely and explored rather different, interesting paths of thought.

Regardless, this
Sasha Mircov
It's like discussing quantum physics in sound bites: entertaining but with the questionable contribution to the debate.
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An informed collection on various experts’ opinions on the challenges of Artificial Intelligence. Essayists were prompted to respond to Norbert Wiener’s The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society, which I have not read and which would have been helpful to have known ahead of time (oops). Nonetheless, and whether or not you welcome our new robot overlords, this book is worthwhile - I especially enjoyed Tegmark, Dennett, and Tallinn’s essays. Essayists’ views on whether or not AI will ...more
Teo 2050


Brockman J (ed.) (2019) (10:39) Possible Minds - 25 Ways of Looking at AI


Introduction: On the Promise and Peril of AI by John Brockman
• New Technologies = New Perceptions
• “We Must Cease to Kiss the Whip that Lashes Us.”
• Mind, Thinking, Intelligence
• “The Shtick of the Steins”
• The Long AI Winters
• An Ongoing Dynamical Emergent System
• The Evolving AI Narrative

01. Seth Lloyd: Wrong, but More Relevant Than Ever :: It is exactly in the extensi
Kent Winward
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
So this is a collection and it has the strengths and weaknesses of a collection. The strengths: varying viewpoints. The weaknesses: varying viewpoints.

Some highlights: Crick's Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul that posits mind comes from matter is really at the crux of the entire AI discussion, since if mind comes from matter then mind can be "created."

The Economic element -- what happens when we don’t need to work? This shows the diverse range of AI. AI might not be c
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thought-provoking and very enjoyable book.
There is something I especially like in a book with different essays and perspectives around a single topic. Each chapter is a different take on AI and each has something important to contribute.
Several of the contributors are authors that I especially enjoy reading. Some of the contributors are new to me, but I will now seek other works by them.

A common reference for the work is the book "The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society" by Norbe
Jan 25, 2020 rated it liked it
The premise of the book is to present 25 ways of looking at AI, but the essays are more like N. Wiener work's interpretations than unique approaches to AI opportunities and perils. Of course, you can't deny an important contribution that the authors have done in the field of AI (Max Tegmark, Judea Pearl or Stuart Russell, to name just a few), but being a spoiled reader you just excpect deeper insights.

This book is easy written, and if you are new to AI frame of mind, it might be a great starting
Nathan Fast
Feb 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a pretty cool concept for a book and I really enjoyed the wide sampling of voices on the topic. In my opinion there were a lot of ideas that were way off the mark, but that’s kind of the point of such a compilation.

Also, I expected at least one person (such as David Deutsch) to make the argument that what we’re calling AI right now is not even in the same avenue as AGI. We have a lot to learn about how the brain works, what it means to be generally intelligent, and how consciousness ar
Dorai Thodla
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I discovered many points of view of AI after reading this book. I am sure that I will come back and reread portions of it again and again.

I just finished it yesterday and picked up a few more Brockman's books. I am looking forward to enjoying them.

Possible Minds may not be what you expect. But if you want to dig deeper into AI and its impact and topics surrounding intelligence, this may be one of the great starting points. Both the level of discourse and the rich variety of topics covered in t
Mar 02, 2020 rated it did not like it
There are a couple of problems with this book - the first of which is that it is a promotion vehicle for authors of this publisher, so it's more like a commercial program for those authors than really insightful essays that broadly examine the issue of AI. The other is that the bios in front of each essay are both over the top and have a gender bias - the men are described as deep thinkers, and the women have bits about how they get along with kids and other less relevant bits. I wish there was ...more
Mar 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays, technology
A generally interesting collection overall, regardless of whether I found the ideas of certain writers all that credible; standout essays for me were those from Dyson, Pinker, Deutsch, and Gopnik. One thing that I would have been very interested to read but which was not included here would be a response from someone working with this technology in the trenches at a BigTech corporation with presumably a more pragmatic view and less of an academic axe to grind. Regardless, a worthwhile read and a ...more
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A breezy, though suitability academic review tackling the dark, light, and in-between insanity of the current and future AI and machine learning age. A tremendous bibliography of who and what to read, if nothing else (and often feels like an ivy league roast of Norbert Weiner's 'Human Use of Humans'). But there's lots more than that. I walked away with more emboldened ignorance and a sober, less cold-sweaty kind of panic about the way personkind is holding to door open for an era of unrivalled A ...more
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
The idea of book is very intriguing, but several essays are structured around Cybernetics and Norbert Wiener's views. The title, in no way, tells that. Also, the arguments around A(G)I gives us nothing new (unless you are not following the topic in general media).
However, few authors gave us fresh perspective(s) on how to approach the problem and some are interesting (esp. Essays from Judea Pearl, Stuart Russell, Tom Griffiths, Anca Dragan, Daniel C Dennett, Alison Gopnik and Stephen Wolfram)
Adam Sherman
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I thought it was an interesting perspective on the different views on AI and the prospects for the future where it becomes a bigger part of human civilization for better or worse. Traced out many distinct perspectives ethically and technologically for AI and warned of various dangers that may or may not come to pass. Lots of brilliant thinkers who have worked deeply with machine-learning and AI. Would recommend to anyone interested in the variety of perspectives to the coming problems and soluti ...more
Austin Smith
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
A good academic overview of the concerns, challenges, opportunities and potential that AI will experience over the coming century. I enjoyed the explanation of the ethical considerations that need to be taken into account and the necessity to discuss those topics now so we are prepared when AI and AGI takes on a more prominent role in society. Overall, a good cursory overview of current AI by the top minds in the industry.
Gabriel Eggers
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
A great collection of essays that connects issues of artificial intelligence to a huge variety of other things. I found many of the perspectives profound and intriguing, a few were hard for me to grasp. This may seem like a specialized topic, but it really connects to sociological issues, personal development, communication, philosophy, the learning process, and so much more that is easy to relate to even if you have little knowledge of Artificial Intelligence
Pedro Martinez
Aug 18, 2019 rated it liked it
A 25 member round table on AI edited by John Brockman and triggered by the 60 years old book by Norbert Wiener on the future of cyber-intelligence "The Human Use of Human Beings". Interesting combination of authoritative voices of physicists, computer scientist, historians, psychologists, and entrepreneurs on where Artificial Intelligence is heading, and the impact on society. Worth reference for a very relevant current topic.
P Michael N
Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
An interesting collection of thoughts about A.I. from some of the top thinkers in the field. There are some hits and and misses but the book has got a fairly good balance of points for considering things from various perspectives. There are even a few jaw dropping thoughts that I had to revisit a few times- there should be something for everyone in this collection.
Chris Chung
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
A fine collage of different ways of thinking about varied aspects of AI written by some of the great minds of our age. Some of the topics included the safety / dangers of AI, some ethical / philosophical implications, essays on what many of these new AI tools look like under the hood, and of course, many of the possibilities of these powerful new technologies.
Sean S
Apr 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Essays by numerous top minds in the field of AI. Focus is on the history of the man who created cybernetics. More of a retelling of history and concepts of how AI could become a true Intelligence, if we ever get there. I have been hearing about how our robot overlords would be here any day now for 20 years and it has not happened yet. Someday, maybe, but not soon.
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With a broad career spanning the fields of art, science, books, software and the Internet. In 1960 he established the bases for "intermedia kinetic environments" in art, theatre and commerce, while consulting for clients such as General Electric, Columbia Pictures, The Pentagon, The White House... In 1973 he formed his own literary and software agency. He is founder of the Edge Foundation and edit ...more

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