Readers of this column know that Artificial intelligence (AI) is hot. Managing Director at Redpoint Capital’s Tomasz Tunguz recently pointed out that the AI startup ecosystem blossomed in just a few years: there are 400 AI startups today and there were none 8 years ago. You might also think that the hype is getting out of hand when you read this week’s Gartner report on Artificial Intelligence: the research group claims that AI Augmentation Will Create $2.9 Trillion of Business Value in 2021.
If you’re feeling “behind the AI ball”, you might find solace the latest AI report from the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory; they found that, of the start-ups claiming to use AI, only 40% actually did…
And, despite its bullish views on the future of AI, Gartner did find major impediments to “AI Success”. The research firm’s latest survey shows that the #1 issue is skilled help and difficulty in understanding AI use cases.
So, wherever you might be on the “AI Maturity Curve”, I hope that my suggested “Top 3 AI books” can help. I’d love to hear your feedback: please suggest books in the comment section!
Amy Webb: The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity
If you are concerned about the societal impact of digital transformation, or if you are worried about the role of corporations and governments in the “AI Race”, this book is for you.
Amy is the Founder and CEO of the “Future Today Institute” (FTI for short). As such, she gets a lot of exposure to the latest developments in the AI space. This book is NOT a technical book though. Think about it as a manual you can use catch up on AI latest developments and the technology’s future incarnations. For instance, do you know what Deep Neural Networks (DNN) are and how they’ll affect your life and work? Have you heard of Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI) and understand how it already impacts your world? (Hint: Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Tesla’s Autopilot have something to do with this). Guess what? That’s just the beginning. You should probably study up the difference between AI, ANI (Artificial General Intelligence) and ASI (Artificial Super Intelligence): the author predicts that ASI will arrive over the next 40 years and could rule the world.
Speaking of ruling the world, how informed do you feel about the “AI Race” that’s going on between America and China? Who’s doing more and whose approach is likely to yield the most results? While the author implies that US corporations might be ahead (6 of the “Big Nines” are American companies), she also observes that the way China is running its AI programs might get them to a leadership position earlier.
The book is very pleasant and it can easily serve as an AI Primer for your team. And, it can help you think about your personal life and the impact on AI on your decisions. For instance, I have been curious about how AI might be used for the next US election. My heart cringes whenever I see DeepFake examples and see how effectively it can be used to shape our perceptions of reality. Will Amy Webb be able to help us there? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
PS: Who are the “Big Nine” Companies? I’m happy you asked! Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, IBM, Apple, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent.
Tom Davenport: Only Humans Need Apply: Winners and Losers in the Age of Smart Machines
I must have read all of Tom’s books. Multiple times. If you’ve been in the Knowledge and Information Management business or have had any interest in AI, Data and Analytics in the last 27 years…you have come up with some of Tom’s work. Tom is the other of best sellers like “Competing on Analytics” and “Keeping Up with the Quants”. His latest book is “The AI Advantage” but before you rush to get it, I highly suggest you first read “Only Humans Need Apply”.
“Only Humans Need Apply” will provide great orientation before you get “hardcore” into Artificial Intelligence. For instance, in this book, Tom touches on the Evolution of Analytics. As the worlds of Analytics and AI converge (a trend called “Augmented Analytics”), a strong foundation on Analytics will serve you well. For Tom, “Analytics 4.0” is where AI comes into play. One could argue that “AI excellence” can only be achieved if you have healthy data management and analytics processes and practices.
The question is then: what happens next? Will knowledge workers be replaced by machines? Here Tom urges us not to panic yet, not to be complacent either. Will your employees resist AI innovation because they fear that might be the beginning of the end of their careers? If you lead teams of radiologists, accountants or financial advisors… how should you approach the changing world of work?!
The key, Tom says, is not to just to “Replace but to Augment”. He even provide a 4X4 table that will allow you to build a mental framework for what can realistically be automated versus what should be augmented. He then further details 5 different options for “Augmentation” in the form of “steps”. “Stepping up” means considering “big picture” insights; “stepping aside” occurs when humans are better equipped than machines to make decisions (selling, motivating others…etc); “stepping in” requires engaging with automated decisions to understand, monitor, and improve them; “stepping narrowly” is about finding a narrow specialty area within your profession that no one is attempting to automate it because it might never be economical to do so; finally “stepping forward” is about developing systems that support intelligent decisions and actions in a particular domain.
All in all, you’ll find that the book will make you think about specific tasks and programs your team run at work. It will also provide a brighter perspective to the world of automation. While most fear the dawn of knowledge work as we know it, Tom reframes the conversation and argues that we might actually more productivity and better business success than we expect.
Stephen Hawking: Brief Answers to the Big Questions
If you’ve made it this far into this post, you’re in for a treat! This book is the book I enjoyed the most in the last 12 months. It is not an AI book per se, but it is a thought-provoking and enlightening book. It is also a very quick and clear read, which frankly, I didn’t expect.
In this book, Hawking covers a wide range of topics. He attempts to answer if we should colonise space, encourages us to think about how we should shape the future and he challenges readers about the existence of God or the presence of intelligent life in the Universe.
Each chapter is designed to be read by itself so you can quickly jump from one topic to the next in whatever order. Chapter 9 touches on the issue of AI and its title might give you chills: “Will Artificial Intelligence Outsmart Us?”
You’ll have to read the chapter to find out but let me give you some hints. Hawking does a great job setting up the contribution of humans to the field of intelligence, he says: “Everything that civilization has to offer is a product of human intelligence”.
However, a few paragraphs later, he cautions that “Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history”…but it might also unfortunately be our last. “Humans are limited by slow biological evolution”, he reminds us…an issue that does not limit machine base intelligence.
Hawking sat on the scientific advisory board for the Future of Life Institute and his knows that the societal impacts of “AI gone wrong” could be devastating. Know who else sits on that board? Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO. If you’re not up-to-date on Musk’s latest progress in the area of Artificial Intelligence, you might want to read up about his plan to begin outfitting human brains with AI chips starting next year…
This book is a must read. Period. You’ll find new insights and even some humor. Here is one of my favorite quotes: “We spend a great deal of time studying history, which let’s face it, is mostly the history of stupidity”.
Hawking was a smart and funny man. He will be deeply missed. One last thing: if by the time you’re done with his book, you’re afraid that it feels like the ultimate essay on “humanity is going bankrupt”, don’t worry: there is no “Chapter 11” in this book. Coincidence or one of Hawking’s last jokes?