Menglong Youk's Reviews > Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark
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it was amazing
bookshelves: audiobook, five-star, nonfiction, science

If you are confused by the title of the book, let me have a moment to explain. The author divides stages of life into three: 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. Life 1.0, or biological revolution, consists of bacteria and single-celled organisms. Both hardware, the body, and software, the algorithms used to process our thoughts and emotions, are evolved; the hardware and software can be changed, but the process cannot happen in a single organism's lifetime—it has to gradually evolve over many generations. Life 2.0, cultural revolution, is human whose hardware is evolved, but the software is designed, in this case by studying, in a single person's lifetime like reading, thinking, writing, joking, or inventing new technologies. Life 3.0, the technological revolution, is Artificial Intelligence whose hardware and software can be designed: it can replicate itself from scratch and build new bodies relatively quickly from raw materials, plus, it can also learn about the surroundings, gather the information, and avoid mistakes, enabling it to advance enormously.

For a mouse, it's between 1.0 and 2.0. We may think that its software is also designed. Although it can learn some tricks or be able to learn something, it couldn't develop a proper language to communicate or other methods that can efficiently help them transfer the knowledge they gather to the next generations. So when their newborn starts his life, he has to learn from scratch by watching the elders.

For human in the 21st century, it's between 2.0 and 3.0. We can re-attach new hip joints, amend bones, make ourselves stronger than usual by medications, and cure many diseases, but we cannot design our body to be immensely different like having two brains, being 5 meters tall or run 100 meters per second.

About the book, Max Tegmark starts with a fictional, but possible, scénario that a team of scientists and engineers called Omega secretly build an AI machine called Prometheus. The AI not only makes billions of dollars for its creators, but also transforms our world both positively and negatively. As the book progresses, the author occasionally includes fictional scenarios that fit the description he has presented. These may discredit or downgrade the seriousness of his ideas, but to me, they illustrate the situations more vividly, enabling me to grasp the views better.

For the rise of Artificial Intelligence, it is not a matter of if, but when and how. When the technology of a more sophisticated Artificial Intelligence arrives, what will be our future be like? Will we need to work anymore? Will we totally rely on the AI to do our daily job? Will human being with flesh and bone be needed anymore if we can transform our consciousness into computers? What about the future of our space exploration? The author carefully answers these questions by using the information he has learnt from many scientists and engineers who are in the frontier of this technology.

AI is still controversial because people are afraid that it will outsmart us all and exterminate our species once it finds us unnecessary. Hollywood movies usually give AI a disastrous reputation as being cruel and dangerous, but we have to equally consider its usefulness for our civilization. We have to be optimistic about the future along with tentative steps by considering the consequences, and this is why AI safety research are needed because rather than worrying, we should be working to find a plan to prevent the unforseen tragedy.

With today's limited technology, humans have been killed by robots in factories because of the mistakes or carelessness made by the humans, resulting in their being crushed by the robots since they are unaware that humans are in harm ways. If we design a robot that is smarter and able to recognize humans when they are in danger, we will be able to save human lives because the robot will stop what it is doing since their movement is about to harm a human.

Recently, the president of Russia Vladimir Putin said, as I paraphrased here, any country controls AI controls the world. This view resonates with many scientists and engineers, which is why we repeatedly demand the world to discuss this issue more widely and intellectually as we all will be responsible for the future of the next generation.

"Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence" teaches me more than I wanted to know, and this is marvelous because one needs sufficient knowledge on this issue in order to have a proper conversation as totally positive or negative views alone would not give justice to the topic.

This book will comfortably be in top three I've read this year.

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Reading Progress

September 2, 2017 – Started Reading
September 17, 2017 – Finished Reading
October 14, 2017 – Shelved
October 14, 2017 – Shelved as: audiobook
October 14, 2017 – Shelved as: five-star
October 14, 2017 – Shelved as: nonfiction
October 14, 2017 – Shelved as: science

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Max (new)

Max Excellent review, Menglong! I thoroughly enjoyed Tegmark's Our Mathematical Universe. I'll have to add this one to my list. Timely topic full of both hope and danger.

Menglong Youk Thank you, Sir, for your kind words. I like his previous book as well, and I hope you will find this one as enjoyable as i did. :D

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