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Bloated and slapdash
on 16 October 2008
Alarm bells started to ring on page two of the introduction, when the author explains that this book is based on an 8,000 word article which a commissioning editor at a publishing company asked if he could "stretch out" to 90,000 words. After that guileless admission, it was hardly a surprise that the book felt so waffly and padded.
What did surprise me is that there appears to have been no attempt to impose retrospective order on ideas chucked down in whatever sequence they popped into the author's head ("Actually, mentioning religion brings me to another thought: perhaps science will be the new religion"). It reads like a stream-of-consciousness first draft.
So we have the author contradicting himself in the space of a single paragraph: he notes that working longer hours is not making us happier, then argues that we introspect more about happiness because we have more time on our hands. And we have sloppy non-sequiturs: "if a generation has fewer offspring, its genetic legacy is reduced. This means that the beliefs to which a generation adheres weaken over time." Beliefs are transmitted genetically?
If you want a scattergun collection of ideas about the future and don't mind an inane and shallow writing style, this is fine. If you're hoping for a level of analysis that rises above "personally I think that AI in any meaningful sense is a long way off. Having said that, can you imagine the implications if an internet of the future did actually become aware of its own existence? Ohmygawd", don't waste your money.