AUGMENTED MIND is a serious book about how humanity and artificial intelligence (AI) can and should interact in the future. Author Alex Bates proposes that rather than pushing only for the holy grail of machine sentience, we should be working harder to build hybrid solutions utilizing human and machine attributes.
Bates uses the term “centaur” for these combination intelligences that ideally fuse the strengths of biologic minds, such as intuition, sophisticated pattern recognition, and emotional context with the data retrieval speed and logic of a computer-based system. Although the overall concept of these centaurs is well-described, actual compelling examples of these creatures aren’t as well imagined.
Bates doesn’t jump very far into the future when imagining and describing potential centaurs and the benefits they could deliver. One of the problems is somewhat obvious—even the author acknowledges that full AI can and probably will deliver at least the same level of benefits and potentially more. It is exceeding difficult to generate high levels of enthusiasm for technology that is essentially a stepping stone to the final solution.
One of the best examples of a current centaur used in the book involves chess. Bates explains how humans dominated the game, then computer systems eventually surpassed the best grandmasters. Currently, even the best pure AI chess programs have difficulty playing against combination or hybrid teams that consist of humans and multiple AI systems working together. This is pretty inspiring, but it is also obvious that today’s AI is still an emerging field. It isn’t settled that the “human element” will continue to lend any advantage against a more robust AI.
There are certainly many benefits humanity is gaining from combining the complimentary strengths of organic and machine intelligences. Those benefits will undoubtedly continue to increase. We currently have automobiles with sophisticated driver-assist systems that make driving safer and more efficient. However, almost all experts understand that fully automated AI will be even safer and more efficient than any system involving a human, and that those cars will arrive soon.
Anyone interested in automation and AI will certainly find AUGMENTED MIND an interesting read. It isn’t as likely to shift research and development efforts from AI toward the author’s centaur concepts. However, as Bates does well in pointing out, those centaur-style innovations are likely to appear anyway as part of the natural progression. AUGMENTED MIND could have made a stronger case for the centaur concept’s ability to speed up the development and adoption of full AI.
AUGMENTED MIND is a well-researched and strong endorsement for the continued advancement of artificial intelligence written by an expert in the field of hybrid human-machine systems. Perhaps too strongly grounded in current capabilities to truly inspire, it nonetheless serves as a platform to begin discussions about the future.
~J.V. Bolkan for For IndieReader