Superintelligence, rationality and the race to save the worldIt is a very slim and general
Superintelligence, rationality and the race to save the world
It is a very slim and general overview of the current state of General Artificial Intelligence development and expert evaluations on when it will happen (seemingly between 2030-2100 with over 95% probability).
However, the issue of "why would a superintelligent artificial intelligence want to do seemingly stupid things" was answered very well and comprehensively. Chapter 11 is a good example of this (titled "If I stop caring about chess, that won't help me win any chess games, now will it?).
It also is a perfunctory but good overview on the Rationalists and Effective Altruists. The book presents multiple viewpoints supporting the fact that modern Rationalism (the lesswrong kind) makes people better at changing the world / predicting things. Also draws a sensible connection between practice of rationality and "superforecasting".
And it is a compact and accurate overview of modern applied utilitiarianism and Effective Altruism. Also the references (to Bostrom and Singer specifically) lay up groundwork for readers wanting to dive deeper into the issues.
Personally I'd have emphasized "opportunity cost is not a real cost" as the number one problem in modern day politics. But this is my pet peeve so I'm a bit biased here.
Presentation of the long-term vs. short/middle-term "effectively altruistic" charieties is also done well. Altough I personally find future lives almost if not as important as current lives, the fact that speculative research is speculative is still very true.
Bayes' Theorem gets presented with a good non-mathy example (part three, specifically chapter 19). Uses everyday-life related examples well, like the doctor - cancer test - inaccuracy example (pages 122-123).
The viewpoint of not being a Ratinalist but being a rationalist symphatizer allows the author powerful standing ground when he defends the "weird parts" of the rationalist community. And I think he does a good job here. Was this necessary for the book? I don't know, but if it breaks mainstream I think it serves an important purpose.
Compared to all other non-fiction, topic independently, I couldn't call this book a 5 star work. However it takes an establishedly hard topic, and tackles it coherently. It's the best introduction to the Rationalist and Effective Altruist communities I have yet seen. And also a good introduction to modern applied utilitarianism and the concept of existential risk.