You Look Like a Thing and I Love You

Monday, May 4, 2020

You Look Like a Thing and I Love You: How Artificial Intelligence Works and Why It's Making the World a Weirder Place
Janelle Shane, 2019

Premise: A romp through the foibles of modern AI.

I heard about this book on a podcast and was extremely intrigued. However, I didn't end up getting much more out of reading the whole thing than I did from hearing the initial interview. I am probably an outlier, however, as I read about AI constantly for my job.

This is an extremely accessible explanation of how modern machine learning algorithms work and why we are very far away from anything resembling an actual "intelligent" system in the science-fictional sense. I would have personally preferred something a bit more either in-depth or wide-ranging, but I definitely understand why this book is structured as it is.

It is a lot of fun to read. The examples are funny, there are little humorous cartoons that emphasize some concepts, and the writing is friendly and clear.

Most of the things I learned from the book were very specific interesting quirks. For example, AI researchers have a lot of trouble training an AI system to beat the second level of the original Super Mario Brothers because of one spot where the player needs to move left instead of right. The book is full of fun little factoids like that.

So it's a good, solid read, but not quite what I had wanted.

3 Stars - A Good Book

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