Cover image for The fourth age : smart robots, conscious computers, and the future of humanity
The fourth age : smart robots, conscious computers, and the future of humanity
Reese, Byron, author.
Personal Author:
First Atria books hardcover edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Atria Books, [2018]

Physical Description:
xi, 320 pages ; 24 cm
An assessment of the revolutionary potential of artificial intelligence and robotics traces how technology arrived at this point and how artificial life, machine consciousness, extreme prosperity, and technological warfare will be hotly debated issues of the near future.

"A great turning point in the history of our species is at hand. AI and robotics are poised to redefine what it means to be human. So ... what exactly does that mean for you? In [this book], Byron Reese suggests that technology has fundamentally 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; and 5,000 years ago, we invented the wheel and writing, which led to the nation-state. Now, we are on the doorstep of a fourth great change brought about by two technologies: artificial intelligence and robotics. The Fourth Age provides extraordinary background and context on how we got to this point, and how-- rather than what--we should think about the complex web of topics we'll soon all be facing: machine consciousness, automation, drastic shifts in employment and the workforce, creative computers, radical life extension, artificial life, the ethics of AI, autonomous warfare, superintelligence, and extreme prosperity, to name only a few. By asking questions like "Are you a machine?" and "Could a computer feel anything?" Reese leads the reader through a fascinating discussion along the cutting edge of robotics and AI. He provides a framework in which we can all understand, discuss, and act on the issues of the Fourth Age, and grasp how they will transform humanity. This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to move beyond the warring viewpoints of techno pundits, as we rocket toward this next species-changing rendezvous with technology."--Jacket.
Part one: The long, hard road to today. The story of Prometheus ; The First Age: language and fire ; The Second Age: agriculture and cities ; The Third Age: writing and wheels ; The Fourth Age: robots and AI ; Three big questions -- Part two: Narrow AI and robots. The story of John Henry ; Narrow AI ; Robots ; Technical challenges ; Will robots take all our jobs? ; Are there robot-proof jobs? ; The big questions ; The use of robots in war -- Part three: Artificial general intelligence. The story of the sorcerer's apprentice ; The human brain ; AGI ; Should we build an AGI? -- Part four: Computer consciousness. The story of John Frum ; Sentience ; Free will ; Consciousness ; Can computers become conscious? ; Can computers be implanted in human brains? ; Humanity, redefined? -- Part five: The road from here. The story of Jean-Luc Picard ; The invention of progress ; Life in the Fourth Age ; Death, where is thy sting ; What can go wrong? ; The Fifth Age.
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