The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity

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Simon and Schuster, Apr 24, 2018 - Social Science - 336 pages
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The Fourth Age not only discusses what the rise of A.I. will mean for us, it also forces readers to challenge their preconceptions. And it manages to do all this in a way that is both entertaining and engaging.” —The New York Times

As we approach a great turning point in history when technology is poised to redefine what it means to be human, The Fourth Age offers fascinating insight into AI, robotics, and their extraordinary implications for our species.

In The Fourth Age, Byron Reese makes the case that technology has reshaped humanity just three times in history:

- 100,000 years ago, we harnessed fire, which led to language.

- 10,000 years ago, we developed agriculture, which led to cities and warfare.

- 5,000 years ago, we invented the wheel and writing, which lead to the nation state.

We are now on the doorstep of a fourth change brought about by two technologies: AI and robotics. The Fourth Age provides extraordinary background information on how we got to this point, and how—rather than what—we should think about the topics we’ll soon all be facing: machine consciousness, automation, employment, creative computers, radical life extension, artificial life, AI ethics, the future of warfare, superintelligence, and the implications of extreme prosperity.

By asking questions like “Are you a machine?” and “Could a computer feel anything?”, Reese leads you through a discussion along the cutting edge in robotics and AI, and, provides a framework by which we can all understand, discuss, and act on the issues of the Fourth Age, and how they’ll transform humanity.
 

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User Review  - GlennBell - LibraryThing

The author is an optimist and he believes that technology advances will potentially bring a utopia. He tries to make his book understandable to a wide audience and caters to not only the scientists ... Read full review

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User Review  - waldhaus1 - LibraryThing

The author review some of the central questions we face in understanding where we are going with the development of Artificial Intelligence. He reviews many developments and some persistent ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
THE LONG HARD ROAD TO TODAY
5
THE STORY OF PROMETHEUS
7
Language and Fire
9
Agriculture and Cities
15
Writing and Wheels
21
Robots and AI
25
Three Big Questions
39
AGI
169
Should We Build an AGI?
181
COMPUTER CONSCIOUSNESS
203
THE STORY OF JOHN FRUM
205
Sentience
207
Free Will
215
Consciousness
221
Can Computers Become Conscious?
239

NARROW AI AND ROBOTS
55
THE STORY OF JOHN HENRY
57
Narrow AI
59
Robots
65
Technical Challenges
71
Will Robots Take All Our Jobs?
83
Are There RobotProof Jobs?
123
The Big Questions
135
The Use of Robots in War
151
ARTIFICIAL GENERAL INTELLIGENCE
155
THE STORY OF THE SORCERERS APPRENTICE
157
The Human Brain
159
Can Computers Be Implanted in Human Brains?
259
Humanity Redefined?
265
THE ROAD FROM HERE
269
THE STORY OF JEANLUC PICARD
271
The Invention of Progress
273
Life in the Fourth Age
283
Death Where Is Thy Sting?
305
What Can Go Wrong?
311
The Fifth Age
315
Acknowledgments
319
Copyright

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About the author (2018)

Byron Reese is the CEO and publisher of the technology research company Gigaom, and the founder of several high-tech companies. He has spent the better part of his life exploring the interplay of technology with human history. Reese has obtained or has pending patents in disciplines as varied as crowdsourcing, content creation, and psychographics. The websites he has launched, which cover the intersection of technology, business, science, and history, have together received over a billion visitors. He is the author of the acclaimed book, Infinite Progress. He lives in Austin, Texas.

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