In the three years that we've been developing this book, the debates about the pros and cons of AI have intensified, and the battle lines have become more and more firmly drawn.
In the one camp are the utopians, those who believe AI is set to usher in an age of miracles and wonder, of endless technological marvels and broad sunlit uplands. In the other camp are the dystopians, those who see a world of malevolent robots, evil overlords, and an underclass scratching a living in the ruins of the great American dream. Both camps have their high priests and evangelists; famed inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil (cited in Chapter 11) sees 20,000 years of progress happening during the next 100 years.1 The CEO of Allen Institute of Artificial Intelligence, Oren Etzioni, imagines a world in which people focus on “activities that are personally meaningful to them, like art.”2 Conversely, Tesla CEO Elon Musk calls AI “our greatest existential threat,” and physicist Stephen Hawking prophesies that AI might be the last event in human history.3
Anyone paying attention to these debates can quickly feel bewildered by claim and counterclaim, as both camps make strong arguments. If AI does develop along its current trajectory, it isn't hard to imagine it leaving us behind in the not too distant future; then again, the future could be amazing—as long as I'm inside the walled garden.
AI for Pragmatists
The question you might ask as you approach ...