Melanie Mitchell separates science fact from science fiction in this sweeping examination of the current state of AI and how it is remaking our world
No recent scientific enterprise has proved as alluring, terrifying, and filled with extravagant promise and frustrating setbacks as artificial intelligence. The award-winning author Melanie Mitchell, a leading computer scientist, now reveals AI’s turbulent history and the recent spate of apparent successes, grand hopes, and emerging fears surrounding it.
In Artificial Intelligence, Mitchell turns to the most urgent questions concerning AI today: How intelligent—really—are the best AI programs? How do they work? What can they actually do, and when do they fail? How humanlike do we expect them to become, and how soon do we need to worry about them surpassing us? Along the way, she introduces the dominant models of modern AI and machine learning, describing cutting-edge AI programs, their human inventors, and the historical lines of thought underpinning recent achievements. She meets with fellow experts such as Douglas Hofstadter, the cognitive scientist and Pulitzer Prize–winning author of the modern classic Gödel, Escher, Bach, who explains why he is “terrified” about the future of AI. She explores the profound disconnect between the hype and the actual achievements in AI, providing a clear sense of what the field has accomplished and how much further it has to go.
Interweaving stories about the science of AI and the people behind it, Artificial Intelligence brims with clear-sighted, captivating, and accessible accounts of the most interesting and provocative modern work in the field, flavored with Mitchell’s humor and personal observations. This frank, lively book is an indispensable guide to understanding today’s AI, its quest for “human-level” intelligence, and its impact on the future for us all.
About the Author
Melanie Mitchell has a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Michigan, where she studied with the cognitive scientist and writer Douglas Hofstadter; together, they created the Copycat program, which makes creative analogies in an idealized world. The author or editor of several books (such as Complexity: A Guided Tour) and numerous scholarly papers, Mitchell is currently professor of computer science at Portland State University and external professor at the Santa Fe Institute.
"Mitchell knows what she’s talking about. Even better, she’s a clear, cogent and interesting writer . . . Artificial Intelligence has significantly improved my knowledge when it comes to automation technology, [but] the greater benefit is that it has also enhanced my appreciation for the complexity and ineffability of human cognition."—John Warner, Chicago Tribune
"Without shying away from technical details, this survey provides an accessible course in neural networks, computer vision, and natural-language processing, and asks whether the quest to produce an abstracted, general intelligence is worrisome . . . Mitchell’s view is a reassuring one." —The New Yorker
"[A] surprisingly lucid introduction to techniques that are making computers smarter." —Kirkus
"Mitchell . . . ably illustrates the current state of artificial intelligence, debunking claims about computers that match or surpass human intelligence . . . Taking care to keep the text accessible, Mitchell lightens things with amusing facts, such as how Star Trek’s ship computer remains the gold standard for many AI researchers. This worthy volume should assuage lay readers’ fears about AI, while also reassuring people drawn to the field that much work remains to be done." —Publishers Weekly
"Mitchell’s lucid, clear-eyed account of the state of AI – spanning its history, current status, and future prospects – returns again and again to the idea that computers simply aren’t like you and me . . . The author does an excellent job establishing that machines are not close to demonstrating humanlike intelligence, and many readers will be reassured to know that we will not soon have to bow down to our computer overlords. " —Barbara Spindel, The Christian Science Monitor
"In Mitchell’s telling, artificial intelligence (AI) raises extraordinary issues that have disquieting implications for humanity. AI isn’t for the faint of heart, and neither is this book for nonscientists . . . she is a good writer with broad knowledge of the topic . . . and a canny mindfulness of both the merits and problems of AI." —Howard Schneider, Undark
"Artificial intelligence can trounce you at chess, but will mistake a school bus for an ostrich or make bizarre connections between birds and hydrants. Mitchell cuts through the hype that the field of A.I. is often prone to and lays out what it does well, where it fails, and how it might do better." —George Musser, author of Spooky Action at a Distance
"The recent resurgence of AI has led to predictions of everything from the end of the world to immortality. Melanie Mitchell’s very intelligent, clear and sensible book is a welcome corrective to the exaggerated fears and hopes for AI, and the prefect primer to start understanding how the systems actually work." —Alison Gopnik, professor of Psychology at UC Berkeley, and author of The Philosophical Baby
"Melanie Mitchell writes about AI with a warm, friendly voice and an unpretentious brilliance that no machine could hope to match...for now." —Steven Strogatz, professor of mathematics, Cornell University, and author of Infinite Powers
"Melanie Mitchell’s book is a must read for anyone interested in the emerging revolution of AI, machine learning and big data. She provides a remarkably lucid and comprehensive overview not just of their power and potential in shaping life in the 21st century but, perhaps more importantly, of their shortcomings and dangers. Mitchell brings a holistic, integrated perspective for understanding what these terms actually mean and the capabilities they promise in a non-technical language that any of us can appreciate. At the same time, she lays bare the hyperbole and misconceptions that are being propagated in the media. This book can be, and should be, read by the proverbial man or woman-on-the-street, the silicon valley guru, members of congress, or a student of the humanities, as well as by professional scientists and engineers. They will all profit enormously from it." —Geoffrey West, distinguished professor at the Santa Fe Institute, and author of Scale: The Universal Laws of Life, Growth, and Death in Organisms, Cities, and Companies
“If you think you understand AI and all of the related issues, you don’t. By the time you finish this exceptionally lucid and riveting book you will breathe more easily and wisely.” —Michael S. Gazzaniga, Director of the SAGE Center for the Study of Mind, University of California-Santa Barbara, and author of The Consciousness Instinct
"Computers are capable of feats of astonishing intelligence, while at the same time lacking any semblance of common sense. Melanie Mitchell takes us through an enlightening tour of how artificial intelligence currently works, and how it falls short of true human understanding. The challenges and opportunities discussed in this book will be crucial in shaping the future of humanity and technology." —Sean Carroll, author of Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime
“Melanie Mitchell deftly provides the reader with a keen, clear-sighted account of the history of AI and neural networks. She explores refinements of the Turing Test, Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity (a little dubiously), deep machine learning, computer vision, translation programs, ethical issues, and many other topics, their history, modern development, and the ebb and flow of the hype surrounding their various incarnations. What is most impressive is that without getting too technical, Mitchell sketches enough details and clever illustrations that one gets a good intuitive understanding of AI, both its special purpose machines and its attempts at developing a more general intelligence. A wonderfully informative book.” —John Allen Paulos, Professor of Mathematics, Temple University, and author of Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences
"Melanie Mitchell nails it: current AI does all kinds of neat tricks, but there’s no real understanding there, and until there is, we will never get to the real promise of AI." —Gary Marcus, Founder and CEO of Robust.AI and co-author of Rebooting AI