My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Since I associate Bill McKibben with climate change writing, I was surprised to hear this book was also about Artificial Intelligence. I went to hear his presentation about the book. (I live in Portland where we have Powell’s City of Books, and authors come to talk about their recent works.) It was done as a dialogue and the questioner dealt only with the climate stuff, as did most of the Q & A. Until the last question. Someone asked about AI. Of course now there was no time. But his answer indicated that he felt we were at a beginning of awareness of AI akin to where we were on carbon in the 70s.
Now even more interested, I got on the library wait list and finally got the book.
The book begins with climate stuff, updates on research. A couple details especially interested me: As the earth warms, the protein content of some plants decreases. At certain concentration of carbon, our cognitive abilities decrease. (I don’t remember how far in the future or what percentage.)
Then the AI. He cites goals and claims of speed of anticipated accomplishments, exponential. He discusses designer babies–not just medical adjustments, but choices of intelligence and character and . . . The latter would be changes that could be passed on genetically, so affecting more than the baby itself. One critique he made was that Designer Baby 1 would have a selection of traits that the parents deemed desirable. Then the science would continue so that Designer Baby 2 would have an even more enhanced set. Thus Baby 1’s time of functional superiority would be short lived, soon to be outdated by the next model, as with most technology.
He discusses solutions in the third section, managing to maintain hope for a move to solidarity even while acknowledging the counterforce of individualism. So the book ends on a cautious hopefulness.
While there is scientific information, the book is readable. And there are footnotes for those who want to follow up. I especially appreciated the balance of his ending.
Lots of good books ahead. But I think it is time for something light and then some sewing.