• John Ennis

Book Review - Possible Minds: Twenty-Five Ways of Looking at AI

Welcome to Aigora's "Review" series, where we review items - such as books and conferences - relevant to Aigora blog readers!

Review Score: 4 stars out of 5

This week's review is of "Possible Minds," a collection of think pieces inspired by Norbert Weiner's classic book "The Human Use of Human Beings" and edited by John Brockman. Perhaps appropriately, I found myself of two minds when it comes to this book. On the one hand, I found many of the reflections to be stimulating and informative, especially those by AI thought leaders such as Stuart Russell and Anca Dragan. On the other hand, I found several of the more artistically-oriented discussions to be almost a complete waste of time as long stretches of the text consisted of nothing more than the detailing of obscure artistic exhibits followed by vapid commentary. In addition, the authors sometimes only barely reflected on Weiner's classic, with the effect that the book was rather disjointed. In total, the book was a mixed bag, but it was redeemed by the fact that the mental stimulation vastly outweighed the tedium.

I listened to the book on Audible, which had the advantage that I could speed up the less engaging contributions, but I think I would recommend reading the book instead. That way you can decide for yourself the level of reading (or even skimming) at which you wish to engage for each author. For me, the main advantage of reading this book, in addition to the several thought-provoking points I encountered, was that it raised my awareness of "The Human Use of Human Beings" - look for a review of that latter book in the near future!

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