Life 3.0 (Book Review)

Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark takes you on a journey through a possible future we might inhabit with our intelligent friends. Those friends may not have flesh and blood, they may make the whole universe a computational machine, and if we will be around to enjoy it, who knows.

A few concepts and ideas stood out for me:

  • Life 1.0 can’t change its software or hardware (e.g. bacteria, changes via random mutations), Life 2.0 can change its software (e.g. animals), Life 3.0 can change both software and hardware.
    • I like how he classifies life in these ways and leaves room for AI to take the third spot, but also leaves a small door open for us humans (life 2.1) to maybe join life 3.0
  • Tegmark discusses a wide spectrum of scenarios in which AI takes over. Some are positive (from our standpoint) and others turn our universe into a paperclip machine.
    • Next to the fictional story I also enjoyed reading about the alignment problem (see Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom) and about his experiences with the growing field of AI safety research (which can also be seen through the Effective Altruism framework)
  • Intelligence is agnostic to form/matter. This means that it can be made of bits and bytes, or neurons and synapses.
  • We are becoming more and more powerful with our technology and can do both more good and bad at the same time (with fewer people needed for either).
    • Fingers crossed that we don’t have an extinction event in the next 100 years.
  • AI is quite narrow at the moment. If we see our jobs/things we do (and give us meaning) as a hilly landscape, it’s now in the very low parts. It’s automating away jobs with robotics. But it’s moving up the ladder. A surgeon is worse at interpreting the scans than an AI, but he is still better at telling this to the family. Many jobs will disappear and although he doesn’t discuss it much, we need to think hard about what to do with our society (he does argue that we can still do many things next to work that gives us meaning and I totally agree with that point and its one that isn’t made enough)

 

And some quotes etc:

  • Intelligence is simply the ability to solve complex tasks
  • https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34272565-life-3-0
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