The best books about the profound promise (and profound peril) of our technological futures

Who am I?

I get to write about the most important moment in human history—and it’s quickly approaching. In fact—the advent of superhuman-level artificial intelligence will be the most important occurrence in the universe since the Big Bang, and it may even put that to shame. It’s a sci-fi writer's goldmine, but it’s also any intellectual’s dream topic. Since 2005, this topic has inspired me to write seven best-sellers, to give a TEDx (over 2 million views), to direct a short film, and to write the “bible” for a video game, all of it on the topic of A.I. and the technological singularity. 

I wrote...

Post-Human Omnibus: A Science Fiction Novel

By David Simpson,

Book cover of Post-Human Omnibus: A Science Fiction Novel

What is my book about?

What is reality? What if we could change the world with a thought? If we could climb between parallel worlds and alter our history, would we risk it? Or are we already living in a computer simulation controlled by our future selves? The Post-Human Omnibus is an adventure across space and time, through worlds full of wonder and peril.

The books I picked & why

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

By Philip K. Dick,

Book cover of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Why this book?

Most will recognize this book from the title of the film adaptation: BladeRunner. Still, there’s something to be said for the originality of Dick’s title; specifically, it telegraphs to the reader that they should expect questions to ponder and their thoughts provoked. 

In my view, writers are teachers, and I love that Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is never pedantic, but, rather, it’s didactic instead. It poses questions that will make the readers question the notion of a robot or android as sentient or not, without insisting that the book knows the definitive answer. Dick is wise enough to know that he doesn’t know the answers to the extraordinarily profound questions his wonderful novel poses regarding humanity and our future A.I. creations; a humility I’ll always admire.   

Fahrenheit 451

By Ray Bradbury,

Book cover of Fahrenheit 451

Why this book?

Most people think about Fahrenheit 451 as being a book that is almost exclusively about the struggle of one man against an oppressive, overreaching government. I disagree. 

At its heart, it's about the weaknesses in our education systems that make Bradbury’s dystopian vision a sadly plausible future reality. Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which books burn, and Bradbury has noted how uncomfortable power has historically been with the books that educate the people—the books that don’t just explain “how” something should be done like an instruction manual, but dare to pose the question: “why?” Books that don’t simply ask “Could we?” but also, “Should we?” 

As we grapple with keeping A.I. safe, the engineers at Google would be well advised to give Fahrenheit 451 another read.

I, Robot

By Isaac Asimov,

Book cover of I, Robot

Why this book?

There’s no other author who I’ve been compared to more than Asimov, and my readers have been astonished when I’ve confessed to them that I’ve never read any Asimov…that is until I was putting this list together and delved into I, Robot, Asimov’s collection of short stories in which his famous “Three Laws of Robotics,” first appears.

And after reading it, to all my readers, I get it. 

I wish I’d read him earlier!  

The concepts are gigantic, both technologically, but also philosophically. I love the way he uses paradoxes to demonstrate that answers are not as simple as they may appear at first glance. And what other writer would dare have his omniscient narrator say: “it was as simple as a syllogism” absent irony? 

Asimov is the G.O.A.T.    

The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology

By Ray Kurzweil,

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

Why this book?

If Ray hadn’t written The Singularity is Near, I would never have written my own books

It was after reading a news article on the release of the book all the way back in early 2005, that, at the tender age of 27 and for the first time in my life, I knew I had a subject that people would love to read about—and I also had a plot! 

Reading Ray’s description of being able to download “upgrades” to our bodies like we upgrade our computers, of immortality, and of molecular assemblers that could replicate anything we could want, sent my mind into a fevered trip through the Post-Human future.  

I read The Singularity is Near multiple times afterwards…it’s brilliant.  

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies

By Nick Bostrom,

Book cover of Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies

Why this book?

I saved the most sobering and existentially terrifying book for last. This is the book that made Elon Musk famously tweet that strong A.I. is more dangerous than “nukes.” 

On the flip side, strong A.I. (superhuman level intelligence) is an extraordinary concept that, once one accepts its almost certain inevitability, is worldview altering.  

It’s also existentially horrific when one stops to examine the odds of successfully creating and remaining in control of an intelligence greater than ours. 

Bostrom takes us through the problem and, for every solution he postulates, he demonstrates the several ways this hypothetical A.I. would circumvent them. 

It’s the most existentially horrific book you’ll ever read, and it’s non-fiction philosophy. Who would’ve thought? 

Enjoy the existential chills!

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