On artificial intelligence, the “Big Four” of the Internet age, and overlooked scientific concepts


Intelligent machines

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of today’s major trends. But for the physicist Max Tegmark it’s more than that: It’s the third phase of life, which will be able to shape not only its thinking (software) but also its physical shape (hardware). Human beings can only change their thinking. Tegmark is convinced that a “machine intelligence” that is superior to human intelligence will exist in the future. He analyzes the consequences of this development in well thought-out, detailed scenarios, in which machine intelligence is either a “benevolent dictator” or an “enslaved god.” Tegmark’s book concludes with the “AI principles of Asilomar,” which has already been signed by 1,400 researchers. In its tone and substance, his book is a genuine enrichment of the debate.

Max Tegmark
Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Alfred Knopf, New York 2017

Intelligent corporations

Four corporations dominate the digital economy: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. Their total value on the stock market almost equals the gross domestic product of France. This kind of dominance is without precedent in economic history, warns Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing in New York. In fact, he asks whether the Four are none other than the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In his informative book, Galloway explains how the Four rose to power: Through clever ideas, risk-taking CEOs, and lots of capital, they have become platforms that no one can avoid. Could a new company bring down the hegemony of the Four? Galloway proposes eight criteria for such an enterprise — but he believes that no other company fulfills them.

Scott Galloway
The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google

Penguin Random House LLC, New York 2017

Intelligent ideas

In 1976, Richard Dawkins came up with the concept of “memes”— ideas that prevail in the evolution of culture, in the same way that genes do in biological evolution. John Brockman, the curator of the influential online salon, asked 200 researchers what scientific concepts have undeservedly not managed to become memes so far. In short essays, these authors present their candidates, which include the Menger sponge and relative deprivation. The concept of a “premortem” illustrates the relevance of these concepts. It’s a proactive analysis of the factors that could drive a company into bankruptcy—a very special tool for adjusting a business strategy.

John Brockman (Hg.)
This Idea Is Brilliant: Lost, Overlooked and Underappreciated Scientific Concepts Everyone Should Know

Harper Collins, New York 2018

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