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Publisher's Summary

A Huffington Post Definitive Tech Book of 2013

Artificial Intelligence helps choose what books you buy, what movies you see, and even who you date. It puts the "smart" in your smartphone and soon it will drive your car. It makes most of the trades on Wall Street, and controls vital energy, water, and transportation infrastructure. But Artificial Intelligence can also threaten our existence.

In as little as a decade, AI could match and then surpass human intelligence. Corporations and government agencies are pouring billions into achieving AI’s Holy Grail - human-level intelligence. Once AI has attained it, scientists argue, it will have survival drives much like our own. We may be forced to compete with a rival more cunning, more powerful, and more alien than we can imagine.

Through profiles of tech visionaries, industry watchdogs, and groundbreaking AI systems, Our Final Invention explores the perils of the heedless pursuit of advanced AI. Until now, human intelligence has had no rival. Can we coexist with beings whose intelligence dwarfs our own? And will they allow us to?

©2013 James Barrat (P)2014 Audible Inc.

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What listeners say about Our Final Invention

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Great read - poor narration

Very interesting topic but the narration was rather dull and I think a better narrator would have helped a lot

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  • Tom
  • 02-05-2018

Good points made

The book covers lots of interesting parts of AI though can be a bit repetitive at times. The self referential elements of the writing are useful to gaining a bigger picture of how previously mentioned information builds to later sections. Very well narrated which makes a huge difference for me in an audiobook. Worth a go if you’re interested in the topic.

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The end is nigh

Well researched, but authors opinion is very bias, I am curious if barrat (the author) has sold all his worldly possessions and lives one day to the next as he paints a grim picture of our future. Interesting read though and as someone who build narrow AI I still learned a lot.

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A good summary of the issue

Very useful and detailed history of the issues and some of the major players in the AGI/ASI world. A little laboured towards the end, the mains are really made in the first half. I agree with other reviewers that the author has a significant bias toward the potential negatives. However all books of this nature should be read with an open mind, and if nothing else, this book gives you a thirst to dig deeper.

Narration came across as a little robotic initially, but grew on me by the end.

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  • Keegan
  • 11-04-2015

Kind of chilling

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Yes, mostly because it's the kind of book I would want to discuss with someone after. There are so many speculations in this book that would be fun to explore.

How could the performance have been better?

Oh, I thought they actually used text to speech software to record this title. It was quite monotonous and slow. I used the x2 option to compensate.

Was Our Final Invention worth the listening time?

Yes, but take it all with a grain of salt. Apply the same skepticism the author encourages you to take towards the other authors writing a more utopic vision for AI. As always the future probably lies somewhere in the middle. It was a lot of information, I'll probably be seeking out other books from some of the people he mentions.

Any additional comments?

My biggest frustration was that his inconsistent ideas about the anthropomorphizing of AI. He rejected any human qualities that would be good, but was okay attributing human qualities that would be bad. For example, Dismissing that AI would ever get bored, that's a human quality. But claims that they would of course desire freedom? That sort of cherry picking of anthropomorphized traits to support his thesis.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Shaun J. Nigro
  • 01-05-2018

Informative Fearmongering

While the book presents interesting and often significant accounts of developments in AI from past to present, its author tends to fill out the source information with an annoyingly unwavering tone of doom. At times his fear of all robots seems to follow from a rational discussion involving inevitable implications. But most of the time, the narrative and interviews seem to have been conducted with a predetermined bias instilled by a misunderstanding of how the tech works. If you can tolerate a doomsday/sensationalist narrative, the nonfiction history alone may carry you through.

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  • RI in Canada
  • 20-02-2016

Alarmist, but an important alarm

Barat writes in layperson's terms because he believes the debate about artificial intelligence (AI) needs to be shared by all people, and that the fundamental ethical questions do not require elaborate AI expertise.
The tone of the book is somewhat alarmist, but that is because he is documenting alarming things. I've seen some reviews that critique the work as repetitive, but I think those folks are missing the point. He is working through how different approaches to AI development all reinforce the same conclusion that we are entering an era that is extremely dangerous to human survival. By showing how this comes to be through both the cognitive science and the computer science approaches to AI, he demonstrates that we are gambling with the life of our species regardless. Also, in the final chapters where he talks about the potential for malicious hackers (like the Israeli and US governments) and mistakes, he shows that we do not have the capability to control or develop "friendly AI".

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  • Gary
  • 19-07-2014

Speculative look without foundation

The author could be right, advanced AI could be the final step for humans and can lead to our own extinction, but the author deals mostly in speculation and never gives us a firm foundation for why that will happen. He does mention Alan Turing and the cracking of the enigma code in WW II. The story is much more nuanced than he lets on in this book and for anyone interested, I would highly recommend "Seizing the Enigma" available at audible (Polish Mathematicians had a large role in cracking the code too! as well as many, many others).

The author would have been better served by just slightly changing his story, adding a narrative, and writing himself a fairly good science fiction story instead.

I'm not minimizing the potential seriousness that transcending the singularity can portend for us humans, but unfortunately this book does not make a convincing case.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 23-01-2020

The Rant of an Unqualified Fearmongorer

Maybe it’s a bit telling when, in the introduction, the author essentially claims that most expert opinions are uneducated and incorrect, and that we should listen instead to him, a non-expert, and his cherry-picked sample of experts who agree with him. Moreover, the arguments presented, while possible, are unlikely; yet they are stated as inevitabilities. Many things about this book overall bother me greatly in their inaccuracy, and serve no purpose other than to spread unwarranted technophobia.

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  • Serge Laforest
  • 16-08-2017

Awfully boring science fiction book

I would only recommend that book to technology inept paranoiac thriving on conspiracy theories.

A very boring book.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Jones
  • 02-03-2017

IT professionals beware

This is a sensationalistic style book. Some good info, mostly elaborated DRAMA. The AI concern is REAL, but programmers will be frustrated listening to this.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Ryan
  • 13-06-2016

Fascinating - something everyone should be aware o

really interesting, written for the layman. only complaint is that it's a bit drawn out. I feel like most of the points are made if the first half of the book

2 people found this helpful

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  • Sara E. Zeller
  • 23-08-2020

Fascinating Book

Our Final Invention is a fascinating book. The Artificial Intelligence discussion belongs to everyone, and this book puts it in laymen’s terms without dumbing down content. Despite the age of the book (5+ years is an eon in tech), the topics and discussion is more valid today than ever. Highly recommended.

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  • Dennis Hay
  • 07-01-2020

a good book for its time

A good book to get background information regarding machine learning. For example .. In 2016 google went from rules based translation to neural machine translation, improving accuracy from under 80% to over 95%. A further implementation would be 2016 US election where machine learning was able to help votes .. see cambridge analytica.. ray kurzweil now works for google etc

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 28-06-2018

Many pessimistic assumptions

Many pessimistic assumptions about technology without almost any proof or anything to back it up except quotes from "famous people in the field". Raises some good concerns but provides no tangeable solutions.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Adrian Shaw
  • 07-12-2017

Terrible audiobook

What would have made Our Final Invention better?

There are no facts or figures in this book. It is, instead, an emotional rant with no substance. The narrator is possibly one of the worst I have heard on audible

Would you ever listen to anything by James Barrat again?

No

Would you be willing to try another one of Gary Dana’s performances?

No

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

None,

Any additional comments?

Read Noah Harari's 'Homo Deus' instead

2 people found this helpful

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  • mike ryan
  • 07-06-2015

unfounded assumptions,biased unsupported opinions.

I got through a few chapters before giving up.no evidence to support any statements.pop "science" at best and far surpassed by similar books written by people actually knowledgeble of the subject matter.Author seems have done sparse if any actual research.While I disagree with the opinions in this book I came ready, with an open mind,but I can't take this seriously given the author hasn't backed any of it up with research or statistics the would actually hold up.Savevyour money.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 30-07-2020

It is as expected for the most part. just scarier.

as the name suggests, we know there's not much we can do once the AI Ginni is out of the bottle... but learning about how it's being developed by finance, defence n terrorist organizations makes one feel a lot more scared than b4... in any case there was little speculation. the book is mostly factual so it's a bit dissapointing because we read this stuff written by experts to see what their wildest imagination is so we get a better sense of it. could have explored more "possible scenarios" in wild speculation. otherwise good summary of how we r doomed.

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  • Chris
  • 10-06-2020

makes you think

great book really opens your eyes to the future, while some bits are a little dated the principle is spot on

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  • Andrius
  • 05-05-2020

interesting subject

I would agree with some of the facts, but would disagree with his interpretation with some of the facts. Also he always refers to Iran and China... Otherwise i think its interesting.

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  • Garry
  • 19-03-2019

Interesting content - robotic delivery

Ironically this interesting book on the dangers of AI is read by a voice actor with an oddly robotic delivery - hard to listen to as a result.

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  • Lewis
  • 25-04-2018

A compelling piece, well researched and balanced

This book highlights why the field of A.I. has still plenty of unchartered territory across ethics, politics and technology. Great collection of thoughts and insight from industry practitioners and theorists. Thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking.

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  • Segismundo
  • 25-07-2017

Great book in a fast moving landscape.

Needs a new edition. Three or four years is a long time in artificial intelligence.

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