Scary Smart book cover

Scary Smart by Mo Gawdat – Quick Book Review

Scary Smart machines that are scary fast learners.

I discovered that 2022 marked the beginning of a monumental shift in technology – the era of AI. As an artist in the video game industry, I was amazed when I first got my hands on an AI that could generate images in the style of any famous artist in seconds, all it required was a single line of text.

Although the AI was competent, it was flawed – it struggled to create believable faces and hands, and couldn’t write proper letters. But, when I revisited it 6 months later, I was blown away by the improvements. The AI had fixed most of its flaws and produced art that exceeded that of even the most skilled human masters.

This type of accelerated learning is possible thanks to neural networks built through deep learning algorithms – the underlying technology of what we today label as AI. The revolution has begun, and we are heading into a strange time in human history.

About the Book

Scary Smart, written by Mo Gawdat is a call to action. We are at a crossroad where we can still decide the direction we want to take AI in. AI is still in its infancy, but it is growing up fast. And metaphorically, we are the parents of this super child. It learns from us, it takes instruction from us, and we indicate through our actions what it means to live a successful life.

The values and guidance we pass on to the machines will have an enormous impact on how the era of AI plays out, whether it’s a utopian or dystopian future we are heading towards. The book covers a quick history of AI developments, the inner workings of AI learning, predictions about the future, and ways to make the infancy of AI as frictionless as possible, avoiding unnecessary trauma, and creating the best possible conditions for a positive AI development.

About the Author

Mo Gawdat is an expert in the field of technology, particularly in Artificial Intelligence (AI). He used to work at Google X, where he was responsible for developing new technology like Google Glass, Waymo and Project Loon. He is a well-known speaker and author on the subject, and with his background and experience, he is someone who can guide us on how to think about the impact of AI on society.

Video Review of Scary Smart by Mo Gawdat

Video Review of Scary Smart by Mo Gawdat

Notes and Hightlights from Scary Smart

The 3 Inevitables:

  1. AI will happen.
  2. It will become smarter than us.
  3. Bad things will happen. (At least in the short term. Errors and mistakes will be made.)

The AI Advantage

“When you or I have an accident while driving a car, we learn. When a self-driving car makes a mistake, all self-driving cars learn.”

1% and it’s almost done.

At 1%, you are almost done when working with exponential technology. A doubling of 1% is only 7 doublings away from 100%. The project to map the human genome was predicted to take 15 years. After 7 years, they were at 1%. 7 years later, they completed it.

AI on Quantum computers

The moment we figure out quantum computing, AI will surpass human intelligence. “This is not a figure of speech. I mean the exact moment.” Quantum computing may be powered by double exponentials. Instead of becoming 16 times faster in 5 years, quantum computers may become 16,000 times more powerful in 5 years.

The Singularity: When Computers Outsmart Humans

The singularity is a term that describes what happens when computers become smarter than us and we can no longer predict the future. We have experienced singularities before.

“We Make the Tool, Then the Tool Makes Us: The Impact of Technology on Society”

Jason Silva is quoted in the book discussing how when humans first spoke, the spoken language was a technology beyond the understanding of the creatures that came before us. Oral tradition, religion, education, politics, media, and entertainment are just a few examples of technologies that emerged from the spoken word. “We create the tool, then the tool shapes us.” The difference with more recent technology is the alarming speed of change.

ChatGPT- A much needed wake-up call

I have been reading at least one book about AI every year for the last 10 years. Not only because the technology is fascinating, but also because I had a hunch that AI and automations will impact how we live our life sooner than people might expect.

I have long felt that the public and political discussion has ignored this topic. Last year, we had an election in Sweden and the topic of AI was absent from all parties’ agendas.

The environment and immigration might be easier topics to engage voters to get to the polls, but I still believe that the AI debate should have started earlier to prepare people for the times ahead.

The insane developments in the field of AI during the last 6 months, especially chatGPT, might have been the wake-up call we all needed.

Book Verdict: Scary Smart

This book is probably the best introduction to AI for people without a tech background. It is accessible for beginner readers and paints a shocking yet grounded picture of the future we are facing and the challenges it poses for humanity as a whole.

Even though the book loses a bit of steam towards the end, I believe it is a great choice for anyone who wants to learn about the subject.

I listened to it as an audiobook. I recommend checking out my video on how to get started with audio. The author’s accent might take some getting used to, so make sure to sample before you buy.

If you are not up to date with AI development, don’t waste any time. We are in the middle of a tech revolution that might make technology such as the Internet pale in comparison. Brace yourself! It’s going to be a crazy ride!

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ out of 5

Find more great book to read on my book reviews page and the Great Books List
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Further Reading

If you enjoyed Scary Smart by Mo Gawdat, then you need to check out these books:

Super Intelligence by Nick BostromReview
Bostrom’s AI classic!

Thanks for Being Late by Thomas L. FriedmanReview
On how to navigate the era of acceleration

Stolen Focus by Johann HariReview
A book on why we can’t pay attention in the modern age.

Yes! it’s probably the most accessible, and easy to understand, book about AI in recent years. A great choice for someone who wants to learn more about recent AI developments and what the near future might hold in terms of technical advancements.

  1. AI will happen.
  2. It will become smarter than us.
  3. Bad things will happen.

According to the book Scary Smart by Mo Gawdat

Yes. It is written in a way that is accessible to beginner readers. It also does a great job at explaining complicated topics with simple language.

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