New Dark Age - by James BridleMonday 12 November 2018
I had seen Mr Bridle's TED talk about YouTube videos for children, which I found interesting enough to get and read his book. Unfortunately, I was seriously underwhelmed by it. I usually wait a few weeks after finishing a book before I write about it to let it digest properly, but in this case I don't really remember much of what he said, which is probably not a good sign.
The book covers the downsides of technology, specifically AI, which is a subject I am extremely familiar with so it's possible I was already familiar with most of the points he made. It's also possible that I disagree with many of his opinions on the downside of AI given that my familiarity with the technology precludes me from buying into many of the fearful opinions many people have, which are more based in movies than in any actual aspects of the technology.
As of the state of the art today, AI or machine learning is just converting a real-world problem into a mathematical function which you then feed a lot of data into and hopefully it will result in a function which accurately predicts data it has not seen. Mr Bridle seems to think it a problem that many of these models are "black boxes" - meaning that we don't understand what happens inside, we just understand the input and the output. I personally don't understand why this is such a problem. I don't think anyone really understands quantum mechanics but that doesn't really matter so long as the predictions are accurate.
There were certain parts of the book which I thought were very interesting, but overall the book did not make much of an impression. However, as I said, I am very familiar with the topic covered and someone who is not may get more out of this book.