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Singularity Rising [Paperback]

James D. Miller
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

18 Oct 2012
In Ray Kurzweil's New York Times bestseller The Singularity is Near, the futurist and entrepreneur describes the Singularity, a likely future utterly different than anything we can imagine. The Singularity is triggered by the tremendous growth of human and computing intelligence that is an almost inevitable outcome of Moore's Law. Since the book's publication, the coming of the Singularity is now eagerly anticipated by many of the leading thinkers in Silicon Valley, from PayPal mastermind Peter Thiel to Google co-founder Larry Page. The formation of the Singularity University, and the huge popularity of the Singularity website, speak to the importance of this intellectual movement. But what about the average person? How will the Singularity affect our daily lives-our jobs, our families, and our wealth? Singularity Rising: Surviving and Thriving in a Smarter, Richer, and More Dangerous World focuses on the implications of a future society faced with an abundance of human and artificial intelligence. James D. Miller, an economics professor and popular speaker on the Singularity, reveals how natural selection has been increasing human intelligence over the past few thousand years and speculates on how intelligence enhancements will shape civilization over the next forty years. Miller considers several possible scenarios in this coming singularity: * A merger of man and machine making society fantastically wealthy and nearly immortal * Competition with billions of cheap AIs drive human wages to almost nothing while making investors rich * Businesses rethink investment decisions to take into account an expected future period of intense creative destruction * Inequality drops worldwide as technologies mitigate the cognitive cost of living in impoverished environments * Drugs designed to fight Alzheimer's disease and keep soldiers alert on battlefields have the fortunate side effect of increasing all of their users' IQs, which, in turn, adds a percentage points to worldwide economic growth Singularity Rising offers predictions about the economic implications for a future of widely expanding intelligence and practical career and investment advice on flourishing on the way to the Singularity.

Product details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: BenBella Books (18 Oct 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1936661659
  • ISBN-13: 978-1936661657
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,180,542 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Many books are fun and interesting, but Singularity Rising is fun and interesting while focusing on some of the most important pieces of humanity's most important problem." --Luke Muehlhauser, Executive Director, Singularity Institute "The arrow of progress may kick upwards into a booming curve or it may terminate in an existential zero. What it will not do is carry on as before. With great insight and forethought, Miller's Singularity Rising prepares us for the forking paths ahead by teasing out the consequences of an artificial intelligence explosion and by staking red flags on the important technological problems of the next three decades." --Peter Thiel, self-made technology billionaire and co-founder of the Singularity Summit "We've waited too long for a thorough, articulate, general-audience account of modern thinking on exponentially increasing machine intelligence and its risks and rewards for humanity. Miller provides exactly that, and I hope and expect that his book will greatly raise the quality of debate and research in this critical area." --Aubrey de Grey, leading biomedical gerontologist and former AI researcher "How can we be intelligent about superintelligence? Its finessed agility steers its course through the terrain of analytics and into the salty basin of awareness. It is wise. It is a nonpartisan player. It flirts freely with friendliness. Miller understands this, even if his approach is at times jolting. Singularity Rising, by default, turns the reader to question the true value of intelligence and hopefully realize that it must be found in the bosom of its wisdom." --Natasha Vita-More, Chairman, Humanity+; editor, The Transhumanist Reader "There are things in this book that could mess with your head." --Vernor Vinge, computer scientist, Hugo Award-winning author of A Fire Upon the Deep, essayist of "The Coming Technological Singularity"

About the Author

James D. Miller is an associate professor of economics at Smith College and was a speaker at the 2008 Singularity Summit. He has a JD from Stanford where he was on Law Review and a PhD from the University of Chicago where his dissertation advisor was a Nobel Prize winner. He is a columnist for BetterInvesting Magazine and regularly wrote for during the tech bubble. The Singularity Institute called Miller's work "important" and relevant to its core mission.

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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Singularity singularly unimpressive 25 Nov 2012
By roy h
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Not the most insightful of books about the changes that may happen. Disjointed and somewhat self-centred. I knew more myself before I read the book....
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.6 out of 5 stars  29 reviews
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Reading but Lacks any focus 14 Dec 2012
By John Schmelzle - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As has often been the case, I find a book that I really enjoy and then look for another book on the same topic only to be disappointed. In this case, I was looking to read more about the singularity from the economic side after reading Ray Kurzweil's bestseller "The Singularity is Near." This book spends very little time discussing "Surviving and Thriving in a Smarter, Richer, and More Dangerous World" as the title of the book would indicate. Therefore, it would be a good idea to know what the book is about before purchasing it. The book basically has three parts.

Part I Rise of the Robots: This part was somewhat interesting although, at the time, I felt it went off topic as to what a post Singularity world would be like. Most of the discussion was on the chances of an artificial intelligents (AI) taking over the world. He goes very deep into this topic discussing numerous scenarios in great detail on how AI could lead the destruction of humanity. (not what I was expecting)

Part II We become smarter without AI: This part really seemed to lose focus. The author starts out talking about IQ. He tries to tie IQ to economic growth and then starts talking about how IQ is genetic. He then talks about how people will use genetic engineering to increase the IQ of their children. He insists that the Chinese will start a program to create a race of super intelligent people. After this he starts discussing how drugs could be used to enhance a person's intelligence. I really started to wonder if this guy should be on ADD medication. Interestingly enough (and this is no lie) the author started to talk about how he started experimenting with different ADHD medications to increase his IQ. The author continued to discuss several other topics unrelated to a singularity including brain training exercises. At the end of this part of the book, he stated that he had stopped the ADHD medication because he found a special tea that worked just as well. (At this point I thought "Oh No now he is going to really start rambling!)

Part III Economic implications: This part really starts to discuss what I thought the whole book was going to be about. Unfortunately, this was probably the worst section of the book. I found his arguments unsubstantiated when discussing the economic impact. He also goes into great length trying to convince you that you should have your head cut off prior to your death and have it frozen. If you did this, he claims that you can be revived latter when medical technology advances. He specifics companies which will do this for you and the cost associated with it. It becomes almost like an advertisement.

I was debating as to whether I should give this book 2 or 3 stars. Despite my strong criticism, I did find most of the book rather interesting even if it was not what I thought I would be reading about. If you can get through the rambling and lack of focus of the author, and you find the above topics of interest, it might be worth reading.
18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really neat book that will get you to think about very important issues 13 Oct 2012
By John R. Lott Jr. - Published on
This may be a path breaking book. What will the world be like when Artificial Intelligence is at least as smart as people? James Miller uses some straightforward economics and gets predictions that will blow your mind. To Miller, short of a nuclear war the dramatic changes in society seem inevitable.

Increased life expectancy. People will find themselves less willing to take physically risky jobs since you will now be giving up more years of expected life if you are killed. But won't that also mean that people will take greater financial risks because if they lose money on an investment, they will have more time to recover. (Note also that the cost of some types of violent crime will also increase and the cost of other crime may fall.)

Education. Miller argues that traditional education will gradual disappear as people can simply plug in a computer chip into their brain. Surely, for simply learning facts, why spend the time memorizing facts when a computer chip can provide you with more information than you could possibly memorize. One thing that Miller points out is surely right about: a lot of the educational investments that people have made will quickly become obsolete. He briefly discusses how education will change, possibly the emphasis will be more on learning how to better use the information that is available. Surely, AI improvements might also allow you to substitute raw computer power for this type of learning also. But for people who will be overwhelmed with all this information and possibilities, I can easily see schooling helping people cope with this power and using it most effectively.

Sex. Just a porn has replaced sex for some people today, will the effect be even greater when extremely human like robots can replace real people. Think "Blade Runner." If people find it easier to simply have "relationships" with robots and many men replace women with robots, what does that do to people's incentives? Do some men work to be successful to attract women? Read Miller's discussion on all this.

Jobs. Miller ably takes on fears that people have that there will be massive unemployment as people are replaced with machines. This is an old line of argument that we have seen when technological developments such as steam engines or cars or computers have come along in the past. Yet, when a bulldozer replaced fifty people with shovels, there were other jobs that they were able to do. As Miller indicates, the real threat here to advancements might be government regulations.

My discussion here barely skims the surface of the important issues raised in the book. But my suggestion is that people should simply read the book themselves.

I should note that some of the discussions weren't clear to me, but even in that case the important thing is the interesting questions that are being asked. For example, increased life expectancy could increase inequality. People who have saved up over a long period of time will have a lot more money than those who have spent their money as they have earned it. Miller raises other points indicating that inequality might actually decline. The net effect isn't obvious, though I suspect that with more opportunities inequality will increase. Another example involves property values. Increased life expectancy obviously works in the opposite direction as a reduction in the number of children, but what is the net effect? On the other hand, might it be that either the cost of raising children will fall or that the return from having children will rise?

There are other issues about how quickly these advancements will take place, but I read Miller's book as more of a discussion of the implications of these advancements than any guarantee that they will occur by a certain date. It seems plausible that these advancements will occur and what has been missing is a serious discussion of what side effects they will produce.

I have known of James Miller's academic work for a number of years. My guess is that after this book a lot more people are going to know who James Miller is.
23 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dissapointing 11 Nov 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Mr. Miller somehow manages to take all the fun out of this absolutely fascinating topic. My biggest complaint is the astounding preponderance of unsubstantiated conjecture. The book reads like so much guesswork rather than a thoughtfully researched and carefully cultivated study. Many assumptions and estimations are stated as if they are fact with little or no explanation. In the style of a true economist the author often extrapolates and infers outcomes from incomplete and overly simplified models. While I understand the topic inherently deals in the hypothetical, any type of data points are few and far between and the narrative often digresses into irrelevant tangents and speculation. To add insult to injury the tone of the book is smug and pretentious with the author continually relating cheesy personal antecdotes, name dropping and even outright bragging about his supposed intellectual prowess. This is all truly unfortunate as what could have been a spectacularly intriguing examination comes off light on insight and rife with that brand of irksome arrogance so endemic to academics.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Provocative topics, shallow analysis 29 May 2013
By George Holbert - Published on
There are certainly some interesting topics that are broached, but as the book ultimately descends to a sales pitch on cryonics, (which is not mentioned anywhere in the teases) I felt deceived by the author and frustrated at the time I wasted on it. Admittedly, the thin arguments are aimed largely at the layman, so it doesn't take that much effort to digest the message for an educated reader. But, my time and money could have and should have been spent on a book that makes a decent effort to deliver on its promises. Wish I had read the reviews instead of the cover before I purchased it...
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Adds some new angles to the Singularity hypothesis 1 Nov 2012
By Christopher D Johnson - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The idea of the Singularity has been under discussion since Vernor Vinge coined the term in 1993, but it wasn't until Ray Kurzweil's "The Singularity is Near" in 2005 that the debate really entered the broader mainstream. Unfortunately, in the seven years since, the debate itself hasn't progressed much beyond the original talking points. Kurzweil argues for the power of exponential growth in information processing and the downstream effects that will have on biotech, robotics, AI and nanotech. Critics question whether Moore's Law can continue, whether it's possible to reverse engineer the brain, whether neurons can be modeled in silico, etc. In many respects, the whole debate seems to be awaiting further developments in technology to clarify whose assumptions are right.

One of the topics largely MIA in this debate has been a rigorous look at the social and economic changes in the decades prior to a Singularity. Technologists tend to focus on the specific technologies that may or may not appear on that road, but few have brought a formal economics background to examine the effects on broader sectors like education, child selection, life insurance, etc.

As an economics professor, James Miller brings that disciplinary "lens" to the debate, and the field is richer for his contribution. I heard him speak at the 2008 Singularity Summit and found his talk to be one of the most thought-provoking because of his focus on societal implications and rational decision-making. Thus, when this book appeared, I was eager to learn more about how to think rationally about possible economic implications IF a Singularity transition is in our future.

On the plus side, Miller takes an admirably agnostic view on HOW the Singularity might appear. He properly focuses on the four different paths (AI, intelligence augmentation via genetics/nootropics, network effects, and man/machine mergers) and examines each one in turn. The book makes some new contributions (at least for me :>) in the depth with which he examines the eugenics scenario and how increased intelligence selection might be pioneered outside the USA. He also shares his own experiences with nootropics, discussing some of the pros and cons he's experienced with admirable candor.

On the negative side, there's far less here about the economic implications on existing industries and societal sectors than I'd hoped. In his 2008 talk, he made some great predictions about the declining value of formal education and rising expenditures on defense for a population that saw a Singularity coming in the near future. There was much less of these ideas here than I'd expected, and it's a missed opportunity.

Overall, I'd recommend this book for those who are already familiar with the existing Singularity debate. While not the most balanced review of the entire debate for someone who's completely unfamiliar and just getting started, it would make a terrific followup read as the 2nd or 3rd book for those who are just starting to explore these ideas.
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