Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Surviving AI by Calum Chace Is a Must Read for Those Who Plan to Be Here in the Future

"If you're not thinking about AI, you're not thinking." ~ Chris Meyer

I've been thinking quite a bit about AI lately. The more one learns about it, the more one begins to suspect that something major is emerging that many people have never given a second's thought about, but will impact them all.  Calum Chace's Surviving AI is an informative place to begin your reading if you want to bone up on this topic. The subtitle is "The Promise and Peril of Artificial Intelligence."

According to the book's description on

Artificial intelligence is our most powerful technology, and in the coming decades it will change everything in our lives. If we get it right it will make humans almost godlike. If we get it wrong... well, extinction is not the worst possible outcome.

“Surviving AI” is a concise, easy-to-read guide to what's coming, taking you through technological unemployment (the economic singularity) and the possible creation of a superintelligence (the technological singularity).

Calum Chace begins with the statement, "Artificial intelligence (AI) is humanity's most powerful technology." The future of intelligent computers is going to blow people away and Chace wants people to be ready for it. And it doesn't have to be a bad thing. It could even be the route to a utopian, rather than dystopian, future.

The book is getting primarily very positive reviews at Here are a few comments that quickly give a sense of its content.

The author opens our eyes towards the now near AI future. He puts complex subjects in an easy to understand way. AI is so near, yet the lay person is not even aware of what AI means. He explores the many possible ways in which AI will interact with human beings and gives many examples of them cleverly put in novel form. After reading Chace's book, you will feel like the machines could and will read your mind. The reader will have a much clearer understanding of what AI is after reading Chace's books. Besides the technical AI stuff, the novel has a fast pace that makes it a fascinating piece of reading. For the good or for the bad.... the reader definitely will have a better stand to understand humanity's future.


I have read several books on the promise and peril of AI. I consider this to be the most lucid and balanced of those I have seen. Importantly, it provides concise summaries of other significant thinkers in this area.


This is a well-researched, balanced and accessible take on the field of Artificial Intelligence - relevant to anyone whose life is touched by technology... and the implications, possibilities and risks of the changes that are already upon us. Recommended.

I've not completed the book, but I'm rolling through it because the subject seems to be cropping up quite a bit these days. Maybe it's been around for longer than I've noticed, but once you notice you begin to become aware of the extent of the problem or rather why it is of such concern to those in the know.

We already live in an era of unprecedented cybercrime, but wait until we have supercomputers smarter than the smartest humans doing all the dirty work? In WW2 we were in a race against time in our efforts to build the superbomb that would bring our enemies to their knees, because we knew that Adolph Hitler was pursuing the same and it would only be a matter of time. (My story Two Acts That Changed The World addressed this wartime weapons race.)

But the real cloud that hangs over many peoples' notions of the future is the idea of AI tools being wielded by the wrong hands. Here are some thoughts from Shelley Palmer's "Should You Fear AI?"

That said, something very new is on the horizon: man/machine partnerships pairing hackers with purpose-built AI systems. This is the type of AI training set that will empower an escalation of the cyberwarfare arms race unlike any we have seen before.

Imagine computer viruses that “think.” Would they still qualify metaphorically as viruses? Imagine a strategist that could think at the speed of Google’s AlphaGo trained to rob banks or attack medical records or whatever other computer-centric infrastructure you can think of. It won’t be a diabolical machine hell-bent on destroying the world; it will be a group of hackers partnering with powerful purpose-built computers and AI training sets attacking in ways we cannot hope to fully pre-imagine. Will we use AI to fight AI? How will that work exactly? Will this be a symmetrical war? How would you know you were under attack?

We like to believe the good guys will always win, but what if...?

Then again, there really is an alternative future possibility. What if by means of intelligent supercomputers all the world's problems were resolved, from food shortages and clean water, global warming concerns, clean energy, sickness and disease eliminated, and -- while we're getting utopian here -- everyone's needs were met and we all got along?

Utopian? Yes. It's O.K. to dream a little, yes?

Here's the place to find a copy for yourself at

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In 2013 I co-produced a story about a Steampunk-era automaton that was sent out into the universe to find a suitable new home planet for humankind. The art project story, Intergalactica, is available as a free download from iTunes. The notion of creating living intelligent beings is an old one, from the Greeks' Pandora to Shelley's Frankenstein, to the mythological Golem. Each story has its purpose and place. Sci-fi has served the purpose of getting our minds to wrap around the possibilities, potentialities, promises and perils of technology. Surviving AI is an excellent starting point if you are new to this discussion.

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Meantime, life goes on all around you. Think about it.

Images on this page from the illustrated story Intergalactica.

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