Book Reviews

Book Review: Understanding Artificial Intelligence

Understanding Artificial Intelligence by Scientific American.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Understanding Artificial Intelligence is a collection of ten essays first published in Scientific American. The essays are written by different authors, including Marvin Minsky, “the mastermind of artificial intelligence” to whom the final chapter in the book is dedicated.

The collection was published in 2002, and is dated in terms of the technology and ideas, but it makes for a fascinating read, allowing us to look back at how experts thought artificial intelligence would develop over the coming decades.

Some of the predictions turned out to be accurate, but many are wildly out in terms of the expected timeframe, and I found it especially interesting to recognise exactly how far we haven’t come in the last twenty years.

An area in which we have progressed is facial recognition. One of the earlier chapters claimed it was all but impossible to automate recognition of a friend’s face, as the rules for recognising a face could not be written down. Nowadays, of course, many of us take this capability for granted as part of the every day authentication mechanism we use to access our mobile phones.

I would recommend reading Understanding Artificial Intelligence. Some of the chapters are technical and difficult to follow, but the collection provides an enlightening glimpse back in time into the field of AI and what we thought it would become.

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