The best books on the awesome promise and peril of artificial intelligence

Why am I passionate about this?

Calum is a sought-after keynote speaker and best-selling writer on artificial intelligence. He focuses on the medium- and long-term impact of AI on all of us, our societies and our economies. His non-fiction books on AI are Surviving AI, about strong AI and superintelligence, and The Economic Singularity, about the prospect of widespread technological unemployment. He also wrote Pandora's Brain and Pandora’s Oracle, a pair of techno-thrillers about the first superintelligence. He's a regular contributor to magazines, newspapers, and radio. He is co-founder of a think tank focused on the future of jobs, called the Economic Singularity Foundation. In the last five years, Calum has given over 120 talks in 18 countries on five continents.

I wrote...

Surviving AI: The promise and peril of artificial intelligence

By Calum Chace,

Book cover of Surviving AI: The promise and peril of artificial intelligence

What is my book about?

Artificial intelligence is our most powerful technology, and in the coming decades it will change everything in our lives. If we get it right it will make humans almost godlike. If we get it wrong... well, extinction is not the worst possible outcome. Surviving AI is a concise, easy-to-read guide to what's coming, taking you through technological unemployment (the economic singularity) and the possible creation of a superintelligence (the technological singularity).

Here's what leading thinkers in the field have to say about it: A sober and easy-to-read review of the risks and opportunities that humanity will face from AI.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology

Calum Chace Why did I love this book?

Kurzweil is fantastically optimistic.

He thinks that in 2029 we will have AGI. And he’s thought that for a long time, he’s been saying it for years. He then thinks we’ll have an intelligence explosion and achieve uploading by 2045.

Kurzweil is important because he, more than anybody else, has made people think about these things. 

By Ray Kurzweil,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Singularity Is Near as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Startling in scope and bravado." -Janet Maslin, The New York Times

"Artfully envisions a breathtakingly better world." -Los Angeles Times

"Elaborate, smart and persuasive." -The Boston Globe

"A pleasure to read." -The Wall Street Journal

One of CBS News's Best Fall Books of 2005 * Among St Louis Post-Dispatch's Best Nonfiction Books of 2005 * One of's Best Science Books of 2005

A radical and optimistic view of the future course of human development from the bestselling author of How to Create a Mind and The Singularity is Nearer who Bill Gates calls "the best person I know at…

Book cover of Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies

Calum Chace Why did I love this book?

Bostrom has said, for a long time, that Kurzweil is half right.

If we get AGI, the outcome could be absolutely wonderful. But it could also be terrible. He warns about the possibility not so much of a superintelligence going rogue—like Skynet, or HAL in 2001—but more simply of an immensely powerful entity that would not set out to damage us but have goals that could do us harm.

By Nick Bostrom,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Superintelligence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The human brain has some capabilities that the brains of other animals lack. It is to these distinctive capabilities that our species owes its dominant position. Other animals have stronger muscles or sharper claws, but we have cleverer brains.

If machine brains one day come to surpass human brains in general intelligence, then this new superintelligence could become very powerful. As the fate of the gorillas now depends more on us humans than on the gorillas themselves, so the fate of our species then would come to depend on the actions of the machine superintelligence.

But we have one advantage:…

Book cover of Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future

Calum Chace Why did I love this book?

Ford is a software company owner in Silicon Valley.

He noticed the dramatic improvements in what the computers he was working with could do and started thinking, ‘Won’t there come a time when they take over our jobs?’ His conclusion was, yes.

They probably will. But maybe we can keep racing with the machines rather than having to race against them. 

By Martin Ford,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Rise of the Robots as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2015 FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award A New York Times Bestseller Top Business Book of 2015 at Forbes One of 12 Notable Science and Technology Books of 2015What are the jobs of the future? How many will there be? And who will have them? As technology continues to accelerate and machines begin taking care of themselves, fewer people will be necessary. Artificial intelligence is already well on its way to making good jobs" obsolete: many paralegals, journalists, office workers, and even computer programmers are poised to be replaced by robots and smart…

Book cover of The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

Calum Chace Why did I love this book?

This book points out how massive the improvements in AI are and how we’re entering a new age of automation.

It’s no longer just muscle power, but also cognitive skills that are being automated and we need to plan for what comes next. Brynjolfsson and McAfee think that if we get the transition right, people will still work full-time. They will still be able to earn most of their income through work.

We will do different types of jobs but full employment will still be a possibility. 

By Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew McAfee,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Second Machine Age as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In recent years, computers have learned to diagnose diseases, drive cars, write clean prose and win game shows. Advances like these have created unprecedented economic bounty but in their wake median income has stagnated and employment levels have fallen. Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee reveal the technological forces driving this reinvention of the economy and chart a path towards future prosperity. Businesses and individuals, they argue, must learn to race with machines. Drawing on years of research, Brynjolfsson and McAfee identify the best strategies and policies for doing so. A fundamentally optimistic book, The Second Machine Age will radically alter…

Book cover of Permutation City

Calum Chace Why did I love this book?

Egan is an Australian science fiction writer.

To my mind, he’s written better about AI than any other science fiction writer, because he takes it seriously. He recognizes it represents enormous change.

Permutation City is about a time in history when uploading becomes possible and very rich people can upload themselves into machines that operate quickly and in real time.

Poorer people have to upload themselves into machines that process very slowly and so they live very slow versions of life. 

By Greg Egan,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Permutation City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Egan is determined to make sense of everything - to understand the whole world as an intelligible, rational, material (and finally manipulable) realm - even if it means abandoning comfortable and comforting illusions. This is fundamental to the whole project of SF and it's why Egan's Best - and his Rest - is worth any number of looks. -Locus

What happens when your digital self overpowers your physical self?

A life in Permutation City is unlike any life to which you're accustomed. You have Eternal Life, the power to live forever. Immortality is a real thing, just not the thing…

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Ballad for Jasmine Town

By Molly Ringle,

Book cover of Ballad for Jasmine Town

Molly Ringle Author Of Sage and King

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Novelist Editor Sociolinguist HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) Good witch

Molly's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A human child raised by the fae is an uncommon thing. But Rafi was such a child.

Now grown, half-fae but mortal, he lingers on the edge of human society in Miryoku, a nearby town sharing a border with fae territory. He doesn’t want to join the human world properly; he just wants to play music with a local cover band and avoid the cruelest members of his fae family.

Then, he meets Roxana, and his world shifts. She’s a human metalworking witch, up for a friendly fling with Rafi before she and her twelve-year-old daughter move away from Miryoku…

Ballad for Jasmine Town

By Molly Ringle,

What is this book about?

A law-abiding metalworking witch and a form-shifting half-fae musician embark on a secret romance, but soon become caught in escalating tensions between fae and humans that threaten their hometown. The second story after the popular Lava Red Feather Blue comes alive in Ballad for Jasmine Town.

The town of Miryoku has ocean views, fragrant jasmine vines, and a thriving arts scene, including a popular nineties cover band. It also sits on the verge, sharing a border with fae territory, a realm of both enchantments and dangers.

Rafi has been unusual all his life: a human born to a fae mother,…

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