‘Scary Smart’ – Book of the month August 2023

‘Scary Smart’ by Mo Gawdat

If you only read one book for the rest of the year, please make it this one! Artificial Intelligence is about to change the world we live much more radically than any previous leap in technology!!

A few weeks ago I attended an on-boarding meeting for my son’s new Secondary school. The advent of AI has become so significant that the school provided a special presentation on AI. With around 80 parents present, the school’s head of IT, linked his computer to a projector screen in real time fed in a question about Shakespeare’s play ‘Richard the Third’ to an online AI machine. Within seconds it provided a framework for how to answer the question and upon a further request it provided an example answer specifically for a year 8 student. The school are cautious embracing this mind-boggling technology.

A few years ago, when I first really thought about the advent of AI (Artificial Intelligence), I likened it to other massive advances in technology throughout history such as: spoken language, learning to make fire, inventing the wheel, the written word, physical currency, the steam engine, the internal combustion engine, antibiotics, radio wave communication, the telephone, the silicon chip, the personal computer, the mobile phone, the internet, digital currencies. How WRONG could I be, I believe that AI is much more significant than any of these previous technologies and I also believe that if you doubt this, then you probably won’t doubt it after reading this book.

The monumental difference between all these previous leaps in technology and AI is that none of these previous technologies could self-learn such the technology could teach itself to become infinitely smarter than their human creators!! Watson is the AI Chess Champion and is undefeated by any human grand master. ‘Google Go’ is the AI world champion at the game ‘Go’ which is an infinitely more complex game than chess, where previous human world champions have had excel at both logical and intuitive thinking.

Mo Gawdat explains in his book, that after the ‘Google Go’ AI machine was first built, in its first few hours it played ‘Go’ to beginner standard, but within a day it had learned enough to beat the human world champion. By ‘learned enough’ I mean the AI machine Google Go, had taught itself to be smarter than any human in this game. The exponential speed at which AI can now ‘self-learn’ is exponentially greater than humans fo a number of key reasons that include:

1- Modern day computer processor speeds doubling every few years
2- AI programs never get tired and can work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
3- AI machines can access the entire existing internet of knowledge instantly
4- AI machines can instantly share whatever they learn with other unlimited numbers of other AI machines

So as I write this book review in 2023 Chat GTP3 has reached every corner of the internet, many of my business clients are using it to write blogs, currency traders are using it to instantly and flawlessly execute complex trading strategies my son can use it to write his geography homework and the uses and applications are exponentially expanding.

This is much, much more than the dawn of some ‘super smart software’ or ‘clever robots’ The author Mo Gawdat was until recently the head of AI development at Google and considered by many to be the godfather of AI, he modestly awards this title to Alan Turing the man who created the Enigma machine which was really the first artificial intelligence machine, a machine that cracked the complex Nazi radio communication codes which played a critical role in turning the war in favour of the allies.

The Unavoidable Ethical dilemmas of AI
Here is a brilliant extract from the book, on the back of Gawdat’s experience developing self driving cars with Google, he explains some of the huge dilemmas facing the advancement of AI technology. “The digital ethics dilemma…. self driving cars have already driven millions of miles amongst us, powered by a moderate level of intelligence, they on average drive better than most humans’ they keep their eyes on the road and don’t get distracted, they can see further than us, and they teach each other, what they learn individually In a matter of seconds. It’s no longer a matter of if, but when they will become part of our every day life, when they do, they will have to make a multitude of ethical decisions of the kind that we humans have had to make billions of times since we started to drive. For example, if a young girl suddenly jumped into the middle of the road in front of a self driving car. The car could make a swift decision that may end up hurting someone else. either turn a bit left to hit an old lady in order to save the girls life or go straight ahead and hit the young girl. What is the ethical choice to make should the car value a young life more than an old life? What if there were 2 old ladies and what if one of them was creating the cure for cancer, should the car chose to hit them or the young girl?” I think you get the idea of the endless dilemmas that are going to surface with the advent of AI.

Mo Gawdat, comes across as very balanced in terms of assessing the benefits and the dangers of AI. His overall conclusion is that humanity can fair well in the face of this technology that is about to turn our entire world upside down. Gawdat believes that we must treat AI like we treat children that we love, but even if we do this he admits that no one can predict how things will turn out. He also believes that there will be better outcomes for humans and AI if humans were to shift their primary focus on ‘being happy’ rather than ‘being in control’.  After leaving Google Gawdat is now focused on a project called Solve Happy, which is a book and an App designed to help people identify what makes them happiest in life.
For 16 years I have been recommending my subscribers to read certain books, this is the first time I am PLEADING with my subscribers to “Please read this book, if for no other reason than to get an idea of the rapidness and the monumental scale of impact that AI is having and will have on the lives of all humans !”

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