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Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom is nearly a decade old but could not be more timely. The book focuses on various forms of superintelligence, but the one most jarring and current is Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies

This books is loaded with incredible insight but is not an easy read. It is full of technical jargon and advanced theoretical ideas, many of which are way beyond my expertise. That said, there are still some useful ideas for a general reader interested in these not-so-futuristic technologies.

The main idea of Superintelligence is that it isn’t a matter of if it will happen, but when. And when it does happen, will we have taken all the necessary precautions to ensure it doesn’t create an existential threat to humanity. Bostrom makes a convincing enough argument that technology will lead us to full-blown AI. But, it still seems far enough in the future that most people probably won’t worry too much.

Bostrom also argues that it will be necessary for global collaboration to make AI safe, because every single person has a stake in the results. Unfortunately, it seems more likely that a superintelligence singularity “takes over” than the entire world agreeing on anything.

Technology will continue to advance in ways we can’t even fathom yet. We already have an immense array of dangerous technologies that are a mix of useful and harmful. Nuclear power and nuclear weapons is a big example but computers and smart phones fall in this category too. Many people use smart phones to connect with others, share ideas, and learn. But this has come at a great cost in terms of mental health and creativity.

We have already greatly diminished our earth and our mental and spiritual well-being. My main fear is that AI will further this decline in humanity. Our biggest existential threat may not be science-fiction becoming a reality. It may be instead that we technologize ourselves out of having purpose and that we drift further away from God.