Looking to learn more about how AI works and what the future of artificial intelligence holds? Add these 5 books about AI by some of the world's leading minds to your summer reading list.
Top 5 best books on artificial intelligence
Life 3.0: Being a Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence — Max Tegmark
In his critically acclaimed bestseller, MIT professor Max Tegmark divides human evolution into 3 stages: Life 1.0, Life 2.0, and Life 3.0.
Life 1.0 was entirely determined by evolution. People living Life 1.0 were unable to adapt to widespread environmental changes. Right now, we're living Life 2.0, in which we can engineer our "software" by learning skills like new languages. We can't engineer our "hardware", or our physical bodies, just yet. At least, not until we reach Life 3.0. Tegmark predicts AI will help us reach this new stage by the end of the 21st century.
Although Tegmark is a computer scientist, he doesn't discount the dangers of AI: "The more automated society gets and the more powerful the attacking AI becomes." The ability to hack everything from self-driving cars to nuclear reactors and weapons systems could devastate entire countries in mere minutes.
This is precisely why, according to Tegmark, we need more insight from governments. We need AI experts working within the government to closely monitor AI's progress and change the course of action if needed.
Despite that, Tegmark offers a relatively balanced view of "friendly" AI and a potential AI "apocalypse". The book explores potential solutions to create a harmonious future in which AI and humans co-exist. It's a must-read for anyone interested in the philosophical debate surrounding AI.
Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans — Melanie Mitchell
AI researcher Melanie Mitchell delves deep into the history of artificial intelligence to answer some of the most important questions about this evolving tech. Her book takes a big-picture view of the potential and progress of artificial intelligence.
Using plain English and a dash of math, she explains how algorithms work in everything from IBM's Watson to natural language processing.
Mitchell takes a balanced stance, relying on AI's history and current developments to examine how much further we still have to go to create "true" artificial intelligence. (The kind that so many fear will become superior and render us irrelevant.)
This is a great read for the uninitiated or anyone looking for a broader view of AI's role in life as we know it. The sources quoted throughout are also excellent additions to an artificial intelligence reading list.
Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies — Nick Bostrom
One of the world's leading AI experts, Bostrom teaches at the University of Oxford and serves as founder and director of Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute. And in Superintelligence, he's sounding the alarm.
Praised as "a damn hard read" by The Telegraph, Bostrom's bestseller looks ahead at the future of artificial superintelligence. He asserts that we're in control — we have the upper hand, at least for now. To avoid the doomsday scenarios that are practically synonymous with AI, we must "engineer initial conditions" that ensure peaceful coexistence with this powerful technology.
But how can we go up against a being that's much smarter than we are? Essentially, we have to design it so that it wants to serve our best interests. Bostrom explores possible approaches to achieving that end.
Everyone from Bill Gates to Elon Musk has raved about the book, making this a must-read for AI enthusiasts of all skill levels and interests.
Applied Artificial Intelligence: A Handbook for Business Leaders — Mariya Yao, Adelyn Zhou, Marlene Jia
Let's move away from anxiety-inducing prophecies and uncertainties. Applied Artificial Intelligence is a clear, concise handbook for consultants, marketers, and any non-technical business professionals looking to learn more about how AI can empower businesses.
A playbook for problem-solving, Applied AI ignores the AI "hype" to offer a more practical view. Authors Yao, Zhou, and Jia provide actionable advice for recruiting AI experts, using AI to generate revenue and optimize processes, and experimenting to find the right solutions. The women work as AI designers, marketers, and tech consultants for some of the world's biggest brands.
Editor's Pick: 21 Lessons for the 21st Century — Dr. Yuval Noah Harari
Historian, anthropologist, and author of an award-winning trilogy on humanity, Harari makes some bold predictions about AI.
21 Lessons isn't just a book about artificial intelligence. It covers everything from equality and nationalism to immigration and meditation. And AI plays an increasingly important role in work, politics, and even human consciousness.
Artificial intelligence is a core concept of all three of his books. Harari's second bestseller, Homo Deus, made some bleak predictions about AI's potential to "hack humanity".
Such predictions might sound like fearmongering, but that doesn't make them irrelevant. Harari is simply trying to point out some of the dangerous applications of AI in healthcare, politics, and society in general. In essence, perhaps he's trying to save us from ourselves. But "humans were always far better at inventing tools than using them wisely," to quote Harari.
Top 5 books about artificial intelligence: wrapping up
No book on artificial intelligence is complete without examining what life alongside superintelligent beings might look like. We've dominated this planet for thousands of years — how will we contend with beings who are smarter than us? Insight and clear goals are essential to steer progress in the right direction.
But not all the books we've featured here are laser-focused on danger and fear. After all, AI is a powerful tool with a wide variety of applications. The best books on artificial intelligence, including those listed here, take a long, hard look at the potential benefits and dangers of AI and what we can do to strike a balance. As we've said in some of our other posts, AI is similar to fire. It can warm homes or destroy them. It all depends on how we use it.