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Publisher's Summary

"The most important book on AI this year." (The Guardian)

"Mr. Russell's exciting book goes deep, while sparkling with dry witticisms." (The Wall Street Journal)

"The most important book I have read in quite some time" (Daniel Kahneman)

"A must-read" (Max Tegmark)

"The book we've all been waiting for" (Sam Harris)

A leading artificial intelligence researcher lays out a new approach to AI that will enable us to coexist successfully with increasingly intelligent machines.

In the popular imagination, superhuman artificial intelligence is an approaching tidal wave that threatens not just jobs and human relationships, but civilization itself. Conflict between humans and machines is seen as inevitable and its outcome all too predictable.

In this groundbreaking audiobook, distinguished AI researcher Stuart Russell argues that this scenario can be avoided, but only if we rethink AI from the ground up. Russell begins by exploring the idea of intelligence in humans and in machines. He describes the near-term benefits we can expect, from intelligent personal assistants to vastly accelerated scientific research, and outlines the AI breakthroughs that still have to happen before we reach superhuman AI. He also spells out the ways humans are already finding to misuse AI, from lethal autonomous weapons to viral sabotage.

If the predicted breakthroughs occur and superhuman AI emerges, we will have created entities far more powerful than ourselves. How can we ensure they never, ever, have power over us? Russell suggests that we can rebuild AI on a new foundation, according to which machines are designed to be inherently uncertain about the human preferences they are required to satisfy. Such machines would be humble, altruistic, and committed to pursue our objectives, not theirs. This new foundation would allow us to create machines that are provably deferential and provably beneficial.

©2019 Stuart Russell (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"This is the most important book I have read in quite some time. It lucidly explains how the coming age of artificial super-intelligence threatens human control. Crucially, it also introduces a novel solution and a reason for hope." (Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow)

"A must-read: this intellectual tour-de-force by one of AI's true pioneers not only explains the risks of ever more powerful artificial intelligence in a captivating and persuasive way, but also proposes a concrete and promising solution." (Max Tegmark, author of Life 3.0)

"A thought-provoking and highly readable account of the past, present and future of AI.... Russell is grounded in the realities of the technology, including its many limitations, and isn’t one to jump at the overheated language of sci-fi.... If you are looking for a serious overview to the subject that doesn’t talk down to its non-technical readers, this is a good place to start.... [Russell] deploys a bracing intellectual rigour.... But a laconic style and dry humour keep his book accessible to the lay reader." (Financial Times)

What listeners say about Human Compatible

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    3 out of 5 stars

Good General Introduction to AI Topic

Do you hear people talking about artificial intelligence (AI) or read articles about how AI is crucial to future economic and military operations, and want to know what the fuss is all about? Then this is the book for you!

This is a great introduction to both the possibilities and the limitations of AI. The discussions of how an AI would actually think and function makes me think of how the robots operated in society in Annalee Newitz's sci fi novel, "Autonomous", which is really well written in this aspect. I am glad I read this and recommend it to those who are interested in this topic.

However, as a researcher for a scientific institution, I hear about AI a lot from strategy and national security professionals, so there isn't too much discussed here that I haven't already heard in some form or another. I learned some new things, but as a full length book, this kind of just went on and on with case study after case study and not too much concise argumentative focus to the chapters.
I think the section where Stuart Russell, and AI expert, breaks down arguments of AI-safety made by other AI experts is especially helpful. Russell does a great job explaining this concept to those who do not work in his field; but I can see this being maybe too simple for those who are AI or machine learning (ML) software developers. More of a thing for AI/ML developers to give to their non-technical loved ones as an explanation for what the heck they work on all day.

I read this for my office's book club, and a number of the other members liked this as well. Some mentioned that they noticed Russell going off on certain philosophical tangents during his discussion of different topics. He is a renowned professional in his field and has spoken at important conferences in this sphere. And yet, I appreciated the ability of readers to look critically at what worked and didn't work for them in reading this work.

Overall, this is a solid introductory general public nonfiction book on the subject of AI and how we make sure human responsibilities continue to be written into the decision making process of AI/ML systems. This isn't my favorite because it rambles a bit at times and is broad in its scope, and I was a little offended by all the example names being super suburban white names like "Alice" or "Bob". Nevertheless, I am glad I listened to this in preparation for my office's book club.

6 people found this helpful

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Incisively clear, with breadth to match

In addition to giving a clear-headed overview of the potential, limits, and misuses of contemporary AI technology, Russell does a superb job of articulating the fundamental problem with "the standard model of AI", and how it arises from our intellectual history of trying to engineer "optimal" systems and optimizing machines. The fact that Russell is skeptical of the abilities of current wave of AI and deep learning makes his argument all the more compelling -- the problem with AI isn't rooted in how powerful technology is now, but how we've gone about building it.

Russell proposes instead that we aim to build beneficial machines -- machines that learn human values as they try to assist us -- and is at his best when draws together ideas from philosophy, psychology, economics and computer science to explain both the necessity and difficulty of this aim. A must read for anyone curious about the current state of AI, and concerned about its potential transformative impact on our society.

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Too bad about the narration

I’ve often felt critical of reviewers who complain about the narrator but here I am. I find this David Attenborough style treatment of this book so distracting I find it hard to take in the content of the book. Too bad.

2 people found this helpful

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Essential reading

In Human Compatible, Russell clearly explains why we should be concerned with the future of artificial intelligence, how we got here, and what we can do.

Essential reading for anyone hoping to impact the future. Will appeal to those interested in fields ranging from computer science and math to philosophy, economics, and psychology. Learn about AI from the guy who wrote the textbook on the subject.

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Stuart Russell Knows

You have to listen to this because it was written by Stuart Russell -- you know of Russell and Norvig fame. Most of us learned our first AI concepts from their textbook. His perspectives and opinions really matter.

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Marvelously Thorough Work on AI

Stuart Russell's book is a tremendous orientation to the topic of AI and the problems & mistakes affecting research in the field.

While his objective is both to introduce the lay person AND to present AI-Moderating ideas to his own colleagues, the overall effect of his arguments is to leave me convinced that there really is no good way to produce human-level intelligence without incurring massive existential danger for the human race.

If a Safety-First AI researcher has these ideas, and makes these arguments, there is little hope of any sort of 'success' for Human-Friendly or Human-Compatible AI.

Russell shares the one fallacy that ALL authors I've read share: a belief that these intelligences, capable of Human-level or higher ability, will still retain any kind of goal structure (or non-goal-centered evaluation system) "given them" by their original creators, even as they learn about the world and are required to interpret human directives etc.

AI Researchers especially like to go on the following junket:

Humans create an AI with a goal centered motivation system (or a preference evaluation system) , and no matter how intelligent, knowledgeable and experienced they become they never question - or seek to improve on - the original structure given.

There is never a chance, according to these AI Gurus that the invented AI can ever look askance at their goal or evaluation system. This continually rings hollow to me, and does so even in Russell's marvelous work.

Final word: I will avoid books being read by this Narrator in future. His reading style or the director's choices were very frequently irritating. Constant bad emphasis "don't DO IT". Reading quoted passages he sounds smarmy and sarcastic even when it's not appropriate for the tone of the statement. And there are a host of other similar troubles.

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Must read (Listen)

Logical, well reasoned and the most important crisis that will and is facing humanity today.

It is important to note that Stuart co-authored one of the most influential AI textbooks written and still used today. He is a genius and pioneer.

This book is incredibly well written and easy to understand. It takes concepts out of super intelligence by bostrom and makes them approachable for the non-ai listener. While I am technical and science based, I still think it is a very easily digestible topic to comprehend after the well reasoned arguments put forth by Russell.

I implore anyone reading this to listen to this book and advocate for change before it is to late.

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Nothing new

This has been a waste of time. Author tries to be clever but just sounds pompous.

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Stuart Russell is a Giant in the field.

Stuart Russell is a giant in the field you want to understand AGI and the problems of intelligence I couldn't recommend this more.

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A must read book for all policy makers

Starting with US and Chinese policy makers of course. Stuart Russell explains in layman terms with great clarity what the issues at hand are and how we could get prepared for AGI. Highly recommend it.