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Soooo interesting. If you are writing some speculative fiction, this book is chock full of ideas for you. View 2 comments. Oct 16, Edward Smith rated it it was amazing. Excellent Read. The author has an inkling we will get there at some point but the answer is not around the corner as some believe. One of the biggest hurdles we face is that while we know a lot about the brain on a physic Excellent Read. One of the biggest hurdles we face is that while we know a lot about the brain on a physical level we do not really have a true understanding of how the Mind works, how do we store information, how do we recall it, how do we apply what we know.

He posits that it is hard to create a machine to duplicate something we can not define. The book is part science and part philosophy and tries to address the issue of who we think we are. Be Forewarned: I am looking forward to boring some of my friends at the next party. Sep 02, Paul Cumbo rated it it was amazing. Compelling, terrifying, and ironically optimistic, all at once.

May 29, Becky rated it it was amazing. This book was awesome. Very philosophical, but not very opinionated. I appreciate when an author can present a deep and developed exploration of ideas without inserting himself into it. This book is a great intro to the philosophy behind AI and the future of work, especially as we stand on the precipice of the 4th Industrial Revolution, defined by machine learning and AI.

I highly recommend reading this book, but if you don't want to, here are my overly-detailed notes: In the last , years, This book was awesome. Now, we are on the precipice of a fourth age, dominated by the exponentially expanding capabilities of computerized tech, especially AI and machine learning. But the questions still remain - what is the possible capacity of AI? Will robots take over our jobs and eliminate work, poverty, war, etc?

Method B: The Systems Overlap

Three philosophical questions, mental exercises for centuries, will now define the 4th Age and help determine what AI will be capable of: 1. What is the composition of the universe? This will help us know if true AI is possible. One theory is that everything is made of one basic substance atoms. Monism purports that the only reality is the Void and Atoms. This is the difference between knowing everything about color but living in a grey room, then going outside to the world. Did you learn something new? Traditional argument against dualism: If there is a world of physical things and a separate world of mental things, how do they interact?

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I am a dualist. What are we - machine, animal, or human? Machines - all body functions are systemic, and the brain runs similarly. It can be duplicated, if we can figure out how it works. Animals - maybe our bodies are machines, but we are something more, what we call "alive" beings that inhabit those machines. Humans - not just in name, but we have something more that makes us so. I want to thing we fall into the third category, but my opinion is unclear Or could we? I guess I'll find out the thoughts on this later in the book What is your "self"? Is it your brain? Your heart?


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Your "gut"? Your cells are constantly being replaced, so your cellular structure is not the same as it was a decade ago, but your "self" is still the same, right? If we are our mind, is someone still their same "self" if they get amnesia or dementia? Three options - trick of your brain clever solution to replacement - the ability to switch focus, controlled by a center control system , a higher conceptual "emergent mind" with emergence, a group of things interact and through interaction, the whole gains characteristics that no individual has.

All cells of a human work together to create the human, as a basic form of emergence, and no part is "in charge" - they all just work together , or a "soul" religious beliefs overwhelm this view, the soul exists in a higher, non-scientific plane.

The Fourth Age

It is not necessary for each to exist alone, but which one of them is "you"? We can get a machine to do one thing over and over, but can't get it to do more complex things. A machine can't achieve "consciousness" which is a human function. A machine can't do the things an average person learns in their first decade And we don't know how to teach it to them. A machine thinks in algorithms. It can't recognize beyond very literal programming. It can't do "transfer learning" where it takes a piece of information and applies it to a similar idea.

This means two things: one, the more specialized a person's work is, the more likely they can be replaced by a machine; and two, while humans can make a million minor mistakes and correct for them, a machine might experience catastrophic failure if just one bit of code is off and the same goes for that which each produces - a book doesn't lose it's meaning if it's missing a word or two, but a machine-generated program is garbage if it's missing a single character.

Probably resonantes with those who believe we are machines and the self is the brain - a monist POV. As machines become more advanced, the skills needed to operate them become more advanced, and the point is soon reached when it isn't feasible to keep the person in the job and turn it over directly to a machine. If this is reached, eventually the machine will do the job better than we ever could. This stance requires us to assume we are machines, we can eventually build one and it will eventually learn the full range of human functionality, it will do all of our dirty work and we can force it to do that work whether it wants to or not, and that it will be economically viable to build it AND to replace human workers with it, and that humans won't be able to find new jobs that can't be done by machines.

Majority of people will still work, but there won't be enough work for everyone. This might resonate with dualists, who believe there is something "more" than machine functions that makes a human, so it will be impossible to recreate in a machine. But they believe it is possible for tech to still take most jobs - leaving only very human and low-paying jobs to the humans priest, cop , resulting in a permanent depression. Five assumptions: machines and technologies cause a net loss of jobs, too many jobs will be destroyed too quickly, low skill workers will be the first to go, and there won't be enough jobs for them in the future.

There won't be a lack of work for most people. This is based mostly on the idea that humans have something beyond what makes a machine and animal. Whenever a robot eliminates certain jobs, it also creates other jobs. The balance is maintained. People save money and time when the low-end jobs are replaced, and they spend that time and money in new exciting places, demanding new jobs. This is called tech disruption: new jobs are created at the top, and everyone gets a promotion.

If tech makes it possible to do what used to take 40 hours in 15, we would still work 40 hours. Compounding economic growth. We also may not find enjoyment in permanent leisure. And additionally, we always want to improve our standard of living. What were once luxuries are now considered necessities. The second half of the book gets even more philosophical, going into what an Artificial General Intelligence "AGI" is true AI, the achievement of the Singularity, when machines reach human intelligence. This goes way beyond the immediate practicalities of the future of work or whether robots will take jobs.

Suggestion for Middle Earth in the Fourth Age

So can we achieve true AGI? Sapient: intelligent Sentient: sensing but not intelligent Conscious: aware AGI: the moment when a computer becomes as intelligent as a human. Does this mean it will be as smart as the lowest level of intelligence needed to be called a human? Does it need to be sentient? Does it mean it will gain consciousness? Then what exactly is consciousness if it can be installed in a machine?

Or, again, are we only machines? There are 8 main theories about how machine consciousness might happen: 1 Weak Emergence: Kurzweil believes a machine with true AGI would have the same emergent consciousness of a human Weak emergence is a real, accepted concept when the results of two things interacting is unexpected but explainable, even if we understand the two things. If human consciousness is a weak emergent property that's the theory , we can easily achieve it, and upload our minds.

This theory relies on inexplicable, circular logic - the thing exists because it exists - or, more likely, information we do not yet have or understand. There is a break in physics and the thing consists of more than the sum of it's parts. This theory can't explain what consciousness is or where it comes from, and it is unknown if a machine could achieve it.

It definitely means we can't upload our selves. This theory puts forth consciousness as one of those fundamentals. It is unknown if this theory leads to the ability to reproduce consciousness or upload existing consciousness. Integrated information theory - "phi" is in all things; even a proton contained data. If this is true, there is no reason why you couldn't transfer your consciousness into a machine. Easily re-creatable, once we understand how the brain works. Most agree that a truly standalone AGI isn't necessarily a great a idea. Not to even go into Artificial Super intelligence, "ASI," when the machines outstrip our intelligence and humans become the second most powerful beings on Earth - where either we enslave it or it enslaves us.

Many believe we're too far along in the process to ensure a benevolent AGI, and it would purely do what it sees as the best option probably to our detriment. The best option, shown time and again, is a human-computer hybrid. While I think the best interpretation of that is a human and a computer working together as a team, experts way smarter than me think it might actually be Android future. So that begs the question: can computers be implanted into human brains?

Some say no, brains are too soft and mushy, so it's probably not biologically feasible. But if we haven't figured out how to make it happen, that probably means more than just the programming isn't yet available, but the hardware too. If we can figure out this advanced level of machine consciousness or human-machine Android intelligence, we can probably eliminate world hunger, poverty, war, disease, and possibly even extend human lifespans to ridiculous timelines.

I am still left wondering whether we should attempt all of this, or the far-off goals of AI developers are realistic, but at the same time, it leaves me very optimistic for a productive and prosperous near future as machines play a bigger role in our work and lives, increasing our ability to do more and live healthier and safer lives. Jul 13, Grady rated it it was amazing. It augments us.

And yet today, many are being told they should fear technology. In my writing, I reject that and offer a different narrative, of how technology can bring about a peaceful and prosperous world for all. It takes a mine such as Byron Reese to address this new age and assuage our anxiety — and prove that we are growing up!

Artificial intelligence. Conscious computers. A jobless future. The end of scarcity. Creative computers. Robot overlords. Unlimited wealth. The end of work. A permanent underclass. Some of these phrases and concepts probably show up in your news feed every day. Sometimes the narratives are positive, full of hope for the future. Other times they are fearful and dystopian. And this dichotomy is puzzling.

The experts on these various topics, all intelligent and informed people, make predictions about the future that are not just a little different, but that are dramatically different and diametrically opposed to each other. And yet, why do an equally illustrious group, including Mark Zuckerberg, Andrew Ng, and Pedro Domingos, find this viewpoint so farfetched as to be hardly even worth a rebuttal?

With respect to robots and automation, the situation is the same. Some say that all jobs will be lost to automation, or at the very least that we are about to enter a permanent Great Depression in which one part of the workforce will be unable to compete with robotic labor while the other part will live lavish lives of plenty with their high-tech futuristic jobs. While fistfights are uncommon between these groups, there is condescending invective aplenty.

Finally, when considering the question of whether computers will become conscious and therefore alive, the experts disagree yet again…. In The Fourth Age, Byron Reese makes the case that technology has reshaped humanity just three times in history: - , years ago, we harnessed fire, which led to language. While incredible innovation has occurred along the way, such as the development of steam and electric power and the invention of movable type, these were not fundamental changes in the nature of being human the way language, agriculture and writing were. With the exceptions of computers and robots, the innovations that we have observed have been evolutionary more than revolutionary.

This is not to diminish them in the least. Printing changed the world profoundly, but it was simply a cheaper way to do something that we already could do. Detailed schematics of a biplane would have made sense to Da Vinci. But computers and robots are different.


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  5. If we use them to outsource thought and motion, the very essence we are, then that is a real change, a Fourth Age. Apr 24, Christina rated it it was amazing. A very thought-provoking book about AI and how technology will impact humanity in the future. Reese's approach to the subject is optimistic, humorous, and very readable. The history of humanity's relationship with technology is absolutely fascinating, and helps put the current tech into perspective. Whether you're deeply immersed in the world of technology or new to the subject and just a bit curious, I highly recommend this book.

    Nov 07, Erica rated it really liked it Shelves: science. This book is a good example of what I love about goodreads. I've found so many books I want to read because of it.

    In some cases books that I'd never even considered that I might like before seeing them on here. This was one of those books. A book about robots, technology that's improving at a rapid rate and humanity's future And I really liked it! First of all, it's written in a way that's easy to understand even if you don't know all that much about the topic to begin with. It's also divided This book is a good example of what I love about goodreads.

    It's also divided into different parts making it more accessible. I also really like the Star Trek references. Another thing is that the author discusses different ways of looking at things and then let you think for yourself so that you can form your own opinion. For example, for computers to be able to have consciousness has a lot to do with what consciousness actually is and how it is achieved.

    Fourth Age

    Is it achieved through mechanisms in the brain that we simply don't understand or are able to copy or is it something more spiritual having to do with a soul? Or is something in between like some sort of emergence? To be honest I pretty much knew what my opinions would be beforehand, and it turned out that I was right. But that doesn't make it any less interesting. I love science fiction, and I think that's a big part in why I find these kind of books interesting.

    It's a little bit like getting a glimpse of where experts think we stand today concerning what in a lot of ways sounds like science fiction to me and a lot of other people. Except that with all the technological advances we have already made and the fact that we're making new progress so fast So while it took us almost five thousand years to get from the abacus to the iPad, twenty five years from now we will have something as far ahead of the iPad as it is ahead of the abacus.

    The Fourth Age III: Return to Earth by Mark Brown - Paperback | KSA | Souq

    We can't even imagine or wrap or heads around what that thing will be. So okay, it took us a long time to build a computer considering this is a recent achievement in human history. But now that we do have it, apparently the computers we build today will be twice as powerful in two years, and so on. It's like a snowball effect. I remember my first cell phone that I got 17 years ago.

    It was a Nokia You know the one where Snake was the most popular game? Yeah, that one. Before that I remember my grandparents having this huge rock of a cell phone with an antennae that you could pull out and all. What's more, we occasionally see years of the Fourth Age expressed in terms of the Third. It's therefore necessary to find a consistent way to convert between the three dating methods. There are several points in The Lord of the Rings where Tolkien gives us the same date using various systems, so in principle it should be easy to make the calculation.

    A problem arises, however, because Tolkien uses two different conversions in different parts of the book. Using this system, we can convert a Third Age date into a Fourth Age date by simply subtracting 3,, or to convert Shire years, we subtract 1, A more involved approach is to consider the last year of the Third Age to also be the first of the Fourth.

    This idea is supported by another reference in Appendix D:. This is explicit that there was an overlap between the two systems, at least in official records. On this system, then, we would convert years of the Third Age to the Fourth by subtracting 3,, and Shire years by subtracting 1, Though this appears to be the 'official' calculation, there are actually fewer examples of it in practice to be found in The Lord of the Rings :.

    Method B is stated as the 'official' mode of calculation, but in the actual text Method A is used more commonly. For the purposes of conversion on this site, we use Method A which is not only more intuitive, but has rather more references supporting it. This means, unavoidably, that a few conversions are in conflict with statements in The Lord of the Rings for example, IV translates as Shire year , despite the clear statement in the Prologue that it was To maintain consistent conversions, the occasional discrepancy like this is unfortunately unavoidable.

    But they have, I think, quickened; and I imagine we are actually at the end of the Sixth Age, or in the Seventh. This note is especially interesting, as it gives some ground for bringing Tolkien's dating system up to date. The fact that we are 'at the end of the Sixth Age, or in the Seventh' hints strongly that Tolkien saw some important historical event as marking the recent or imminent end of the Sixth Age. Each of the three Ages we know about ended with a great war and the fall of a tyrant, and Tolkien was writing just thirteen years after the end of the Second World War: could there be a connection?

    If so, we can 'reset' the calendar in , which would be the first year of the Seventh Age. The letter quoted above, then, would have been written in VII 14, which explains Tolkien's reference to the change of Age, while the year would be VII It's important to stress that there's absolutely no direct evidence for any of this - it's just harmless speculation. We do know, though, that Tolkien was fastidious in calculating his dating systems: it's unlikely that he would have mentioned a change of Age if he didn't have solid reasons for doing so.