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Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  617 ratings  ·  108 reviews
A sweeping examination of the current state of artificial intelligence and how it is remaking our world

No recent scientific enterprise has proved as alluring, terrifying, and filled with extravagant promise and frustrating setbacks as artificial intelligence. The award-winning author Melanie Mitchell, a leading computer scientist, now reveals AI’s turbulent history and the
Hardcover, First, 336 pages
Published October 15th 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Average rating 4.43  · 
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Brian Clegg
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As Melanie Mitchell makes plain, humans have limitations in their visual abilities, typified by optical illusions, but artificial intelligence (AI) struggles at a much deeper level with recognising what's going on in images. Similarly in some ways, the visual appearance of this book misleads. It's worryingly fat and bears the ascetic light blue cover of the Pelican series, which since my childhood have been markers of books that were worthy but have rarely been readable. This, however, is an exc ...more
Tucker  (TuckerTheReader)
Jun 30, 2019 marked it as not-released-tbr
Shelves: nonfiction
plot twist: this book was written by AI

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Steve Agland
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book should be widely read, especially by those with a technological or philosophical interest in artificial intelligence, which should be most people. It provides a succinct history of this ambitious thought-provoking field, and a beautiful overview of the current state of the art. It should be accessible to anyone unafraid of a little mathematics. Since it is such a quickly evolving field, this latter aspect may grow out of date rather quickly.

But most importantly, this book is a well-arg
Minervas Owl
Nov 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Pantelis Pipergias-Analytis
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Melanie Mitchell provides an excellent summary of the current endeavours across fields in AI and an interim (bleak) assessment of the field's progress towards the holy grail of strong AI. Mitchell discusses recent milestones reached by AI (most based on approaches using some form of deep learning) taking a critical point of view, devoid of sensationalism as encountered in the media. Mitchell’s writing is lucid and engaging: many technical concepts are explained in clear and vidid language.

May 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read this cover to cover in about two sittings, first book I've done like that in a while. There's a lot of pop science books out about AI and machine learning and a lot of them aren't very good. This is intelligent but not obscure, conversational to the point that it's almost gossipy it reads like a quanta article if they delve just a bit deeper into their subject. Whether it's the cheating controversies or the history of AIs for games to the speculative portions in the later part of the book ...more
TS Allen
Jul 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"In any ranking of near-term worries about AI, superintelligence should be far down the list. In fact, the opposite of superintelligence is the real problem."
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
** I won an advance reader copy of this book for free through a Goodreads giveaway. **

This is a well-written and thought-provoking account of the history and potential future of artificial intelligence. The author writes in a style that allows both those who have a background in AI to gain new insight and those who have little to no background to follow along (I understand the basics but am by no means an expert and I had little to no trouble understanding). The author also does an excellent job
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent summary and overview of the current state and challenges facing artificial intelligence. Should be readily accessible to any interested reader without requiring pre-existing knowledge of the field.
May 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fic
Wow, what a great read. No matter who you are, in this modern world it is highly likely that you are involved one way or another with AI. AI is so ubiquitous that at some point I want to dismantle the seemingly impenetrable barrier and peek inside a bit beyond the simplest definition. This book does exactly that, with such clarity.

And it offers more than that. Besides providing some basic notions of various algorithms in AI, Mitchell brings into the table an in depth discussion of the overall pi
May Ling
Mar 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Summary: Melanie Mitchell's guide is approachable in its coverage of where the world is at in AI as of 2019. I love that it presents a balanced view and as a practitioner, she doesn't try to sell AI as doing more than it currently can.

p. 5 - Funny that she's getting lost in the Google Maps building. Ha!

p. 13 - Hofstadter's terror had to do with making humanity mundane more than a few of AI.

p. 35 - Back Propagation (She references Perceptrons) - "is a way to take the error observed at the outpu
Jul 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was great and I bet if I wasn't so brain broken by pandemic I would have been able to finish it in a month instead of 4 because it is extremely well written and clear and just very good at explaining difficult concepts to huge dummies like me.
Donal Hurley
Mar 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a great overview of artificial intelligence for the lay person.
Henrik Warne
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Really great book. The author (an AI researcher) explains how many of today's state of the art AI systems work. These include image recognition, game playing (like AlphaGo) and NLP systems like Google translate. The explanations for how those systems work are really good, with just the right amount of technical detail. We also get to see what the weak points of these systems are, and how far away we are from creating any true intelligence.
I have written quite a long review/summary of it on my bl
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This felt like an 8th grade science report, and much of the writing was laughably bad. What became an entire book, perhaps ought to have been a blog post and a bibliography.

There was far too much of this pattern: “here’s what I’m about to say”; some casual, repetitive exposition; and “I just said”; littered with plenty of “as I said before”. I can do without all the prefacing and summary, thanks very much.

While I fully appreciate this sort of accesible, high-level overview is important and valua
Xavier Guardiola
Feb 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fresh, down to earth, review of the current AI craze. Melanie Mitchell is no stranger to the field (she did her Ph.D with Douglas Hofstadter, and, quite some years ago, published the best book about Genetic Algorithms you can find). She's quick to pinpoint the limits of current Neural Network (CNNs, RNNs, DQNs) centric approaches to AI, highlighting the need to overcome the "barrier of meaning" and search for models that could work with 'common sense' knowledge and the capacity for sophisticat ...more
Dec 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful introduction to AI, covering the latest techniques and resources in a truly accessible way. It deserves the title of “a guide for thinking humans” — I was impressed by the author’s ability to convey complex AI concepts in simple terms.

A bit that I particularly liked — the recurring recipe for AI research (ie, hype): define narrow problem, achieve human-level performance, make big claims for broader problem.
David Readmont-Walker
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Well explained, balanced, nuanced evaluation of the current status of AI.
Gabriel Nicholas
Nov 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
The perfect book for those of us who took machine learning coursework in school and then forgot absolutely all of it.
Andrew Brady
Sep 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It might all be out of date someday. But this was a good read, and a great summary of where the industry stands right now.
Deane Barker
Apr 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
A good primer to the field. Hits the right depth between technical and theoretical layers, including quite a bit on ethics. My takeaway is that we're really, really far away from anything approaching what we think artificial intelligence was going to be.
Jan 16, 2020 rated it liked it
A great breakdown of the current state of AI, detailing its strengths and weaknesses.

The author continuously highlights what we do well as humans and where AI falls short, even when competing against children. She covers AI strengths by discussing programs like AlphaGo and IBM Watson. She also summarizes the recent rise in basic AI services, beginning in the mid-2000’s with translation, auto-subtitles, virtual assistants, facial recognition in pictures, up to today’s standard for self-driving v
Bojan Tamburic
Apr 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is essential reading for ‘thinking humans’ with a curiosity about AI. Melanie Mitchell describes with clarity the algorithms responsible for key AI advances, documents the incredible successes of these algorithms in narrow tasks (such as chess-mastery) and highlights the numerous limitations of AI. It appears that we are a long way from ‘general AI’ with superhuman intelligence. However, many human tasks (such as driving) will soon be replaced by AI, and we need to decide how much we s ...more
Sep 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, nonfic, philosophy
Perhaps the best overview/introduction to artificial intelligence on the bookshelves. Contains the perfect amount of history and math and diagrams that actually explain things ( as opposed to a lot of AI literature).
This is a book everyone should read.
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I won this book in a First Reads Giveaway. I received an advanced reader copy, so some features (such as an index) are going to be modified or added before final publication.

This book covers the history of artificial intelligence, several of its uses, and the algorithms that make it work. It also includes Professor Mitchell's ideas about the philosophy, ethics, and future of AI. It is written in a very clear style that never gets too technical. You don't need to be a computer scientist to be ab
Douglas Summers-Stay
Dec 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
After reading a terrible review of this book (the author of the review tried to shoehorn it into what was clearly their usual way of tackling every assignment, seeing the problems with AI through the lens of gender and race inequality) I was curious about what the book actually had to say. Melanie Mitchell was one of Douglas Hofstadter's students, and takes his perspective on a lot of questions. I've been a fan of his books for a long time-- they helped me get into AI in the first place-- but in ...more
Andrew Fairweather
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
“If you use machine translation—and I do so myself—you should take the results with a grain of salt. In fact, when I had Google Translate translate ‘take it with a grain of salt’ from English to Chinese and then back to English, it told me to ‘bring a salt bar.’ That might be a better idea.”

The above quote is from one of the funniest parts of Melanie Mitchell’s incredibly readable introduction to AI for laypeople like myself—the quote is, I think, a pretty neat summary of Mitchell’s position on
Oleksandr Fialko
Feb 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An informative overview of the current state of AI, its strength and limitation. Prof. Mitchell is an excellent educator, which she demonstrated in her popular course "Introduction to complexity" on the Santa Fe Institute website. She demonstrates her style in the book as well: The book is enjoable to read.
Feb 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Artificial intelligence is once again a hype - this time much, much bigger than in previous AI "springs". This book was written by an academic expert, famous for her prior books introducing to genetic algorithms and complexity a wide readership. This time Melanie Mitchell tasked herself with finding out whether the current megalomaniac claims by AI shareholders that fill daily newspapers and research proposals are true. In a nutshell, the answer is: they are not, as far as claims that (human) ge ...more
Josh Friedlander
I discovered this via David Auerbach's recommendation, and it is a gem: a conversational, crystal-clear book that inherits some of Mitchell's mentor Douglas Hofstadter's enthusiasm, but with more of a sense of the readers's patience. (A friend says no one has ever finished Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. I vaguely seem to remember finishing it, but don't remember much after the early sections about recursion.)

I'd say I knew a lot of the material covered here, but still enjoyed seei
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Melanie Mitchell is a professor of computer science at Portland State University. She has worked at the Santa Fe Institute and Los Alamos National Laboratory. Her major work has been in the areas of analogical reasoning, complex systems, genetic algorithms and cellular automata, and her publications in those fields are frequently cited.

She received her PhD in 1990 from the University of Michigan u

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