Fact vs. Fiction

Time To Distill The Truth
Taking on the Silicon Valley glitterati

As I write these words in January 2018, the end of Mastering Artificial Intelligence seems a long way off…

I have literally 1000s of hours of deep work to do over 2018 and well beyond.

But in addition to putting in the hours, AI is going to become part of me: as I wake up; when I’m out for a run; during dinner when I leap up and head into the office to record a sudden insight; when I’m sitting on a chairlift while on a ski trip and at parties where I’ll be looking for an opportunity to test out some thinking on someone who I think might be interested.

All in an effort to simply the complex, create new thinking or build a logical bridge that connects together disparate ideas.

1000s of pages of notes and probably multiple false trails – ideas that prove incorrect, or don’t fit into an overall picture.  A sense of mental struggle to discover an overall intellectual construct that exists, but is continually elusive and many hours spent chasing leads that go nowhere.

This is what ‘deep work’ looks like.

The result of all this will be condensed down into something like 150 – 300 hours of podcast programming, 250 eBooklets (5 to 10 pages each) and 11 eBooks (100 – 200 pages each) – which is how you will experience Mastering Artificial Intelligence.

By the time we’re done – we (meaning you and me) will have developed a strong, well-balanced understanding of the whole field of artificial intelligence.

My hope is that by covering all the bases ‘we’ will have taken our understanding of AI up a whole level, or maybe up several levels.

Some people might already regard you as a expert.

Let’s quickly review where I’d like us to be the end of this journey:

  • We should have a good handle on some of the most slippery metaphysical questions surrounding AI
  • We should understand the technical foundations of AI
  • We should have a good intuitive understanding of how the world’s most advanced AI systems actually work – which means appreciating how powerful systems like Google AlphaGo and IBM Project Debater are, but also understanding how limited they still are.
  • We will have seen how AI is being used in 100s of real-world situations .
  • We should also have understood how to conceive and scope out completely new projects that use AI.
  • We should have identified major gaps in the theory of AI technology and taken a glimpse into the future.

And more besides…

I think that this will be a real achievement:

By this stage our mutual understanding of AI will be more extensive and nuanced than the vast majority of people – whose understanding of AI is mainly based on consuming media reports.

We will probably be some way ahead of most computer science graduates and people who have PhDs in AI. And I am confident that we will be ahead of many commentators who write articles on AI for major, branded publications.

We will also be ahead of some high-profile tech personalities who are very opinionated about AI but who might not understand AI quite as well as they should: I’m sure you have noticed that some people develop their credentials and platform in one field and then sometimes mistakenly believe that this qualifies them to comment authoritatively on another field, like AI. Well, it doesn’t.

Why do we want to be ahead? Because we want to help shape the field of AI, not just participate in it.

Hence ‘Mastering Artificial Intelligence’.

In an effort to explain the sort of understanding I personally seek I came up with the term ‘strategic expertise’ – which means being able to see the whole picture, grasp the underlying ideas and know how to use AI to solve real problems.

But we will need to take one final step before we can think of ourselves as possessing that type of strategic expertise:

We are going to have to test our understanding by critically analysing a number of contradictory statements about AI that have been made by the following four high-profile people:

Elon Musk: A superstar technology entrepreneur with a vision to colonise Mars, but who worries that AI could mean the end of the human species.

Mark Zuckerberg: Needing no introduction as the co-founder and CEO of a certain social network, Zuckerberg has responded to Elon Musk by stating that it is irresponsible to issue such dire warnings.

Max Tegmark: A credentialed cosmologist who is also President of the Future of Life Institute and, while less prone to the colourful language favoured by Musk and Zuckerberg, also harbors serious concerns about the dangers posed by AI.

Ray Kurzweil: A proven technology entrepreneur and futurist who has been involved with AI for decades. Kurzweil believes that computers will have ‘human level’ intelligence by 2029. He also wants to upload the content of his brain into one of those computers so he can live forever.

We will not be interested in trying to work out which of these people is right and which is wrong, which would just result in polarising opinion.

Instead, we will carefully evaluate the full diversity of their thinking in order to extract an ensemble of ideas that together make sense – when measured against the insights delivered by this programme.

It is my hope that at the end of Mastering Artificial Intelligence you will have the confidence to tackle any AI-related topic in any situation – in order to move the thinking forward.