The best books on artificial intelligence that are not full of hype and nonsense

Peter J. Bentley Author Of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics: Ten Short Lessons
By Peter J. Bentley

The Books I Picked & Why

Rage Inside the Machine: The Prejudice of Algorithms, and How to Stop the Internet Making Bigots of Us All

By Robert Elliott Smith

Book cover of Rage Inside the Machine: The Prejudice of Algorithms, and How to Stop the Internet Making Bigots of Us All

Why this book?

OK, I’m biased here because Rob is an old friend of mine. We first met at academic conferences and had several heated debates (arguments). But after spending a little time together at a workshop we realised each probably knew what they were talking about after all. Robert Elliott Smith, I should make clear it's not the Rob Smith who writes about “Artificial Superintelligence”. Those books definitely do not make this list.

Our Rob is a coherent, grounded scientist with bags of real-world experience, and he brings his knowledge to this title with gusto, telling us about how AI is affecting our lives in ways you never thought possible – and often not in a good way. If you want to understand what can go wrong with AI and what we should be doing to stop it, don’t read about singularities or other such nonsense, read this.


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AI: Its Nature and Future

By Margaret A. Boden

Book cover of AI: Its Nature and Future

Why this book?

Maggie is a force of nature and anyone involved in the philosophy of AI knows (or should know) her extensive work. This book is an easy-to-read and beautifully-written introduction to Artificial Intelligence, which tells some of the recent history while explaining how and why intelligence is much harder to make than many of the pundits seem to think. No nonsense here – a good solid read by a hugely experienced scientist at the top of her field.


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Artifictional Intelligence: Against Humanity's Surrender to Computers

By Harry Collins

Book cover of Artifictional Intelligence: Against Humanity's Surrender to Computers

Why this book?

I’ve not met Harry, but he seems to have a logical and sensible head on his shoulders. His writing is considered and grounded, which is exactly what you need when discussing the hype that forever seems to surround AI. This book is another look at this topic and finds yet more ways to explain to readers the difference between human intelligence and our algorithmic attempts at intelligence – which are frequently pretty stupid.


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The Integral Trees: And the Smoke Ring

By Larry Niven

Book cover of The Integral Trees: And the Smoke Ring

Why this book?

When I’m not developing AI methods (or writing about them) I read. Most of what I read is science fiction. There’s nothing more imaginative than a good science fiction book, and many science fiction stories have inspired us to develop whole new technologies. This one probably won’t do that, but it has such a bizarre mind-bending world that I couldn’t resist recommending it. Niven is great at this kind of thing – the Ringworld books were a favourite of mine as a kid, and frankly, I could recommend another 30 of his books. But Integral Trees is entertaining, a little bizarre, and it even has diagrams to illustrate the underlying concepts at the start – what more could you ask for in a science fiction book?


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On

By Adam Roberts

Book cover of On

Why this book?

This is another break from AI, and it’s another bizarre world. Why do computer scientists like this kind of thing? I think it’s because we invent mind-bending mathematical worlds in which our algorithms live – we like to explore the strange and weird. When reading this book, at first you wonder if this is science fiction at all – the story seems fantastical. But check out the Appendix and there’s the scientific explanation, complete with equations for the weird laws of physics. Now, this is a proper hard science fiction book… somehow disguised almost as a fairy tale. A lovely read and the ending is suitably in keeping with the rest of the story… Unexpected.


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