The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity

Simon and Schuster

Narrated by Danny Campbell

11 hr 4 min
1

As we approach a great turning point in history when technology is poised to redefine what it means to be human, The Fourth Age offers fascinating insight into AI, robotics, and their extraordinary implications for our species.

In The Fourth Age, Byron Reese makes the case that technology has reshaped humanity just three times in history:

- 100,000 years ago, we harnessed fire, which led to language.

- 10,000 years ago, we developed agriculture, which led to cities and warfare.

- 5,000 years ago, we invented the wheel and writing, which lead to the nation state.

We are now on the doorstep of a fourth change brought about by two technologies: AI and robotics. The Fourth Age provides extraordinary background information on how we got to this point, and how—rather than what—we should think about the topics we’ll soon all be facing: machine consciousness, automation, employment, creative computers, radical life extension, artificial life, AI ethics, the future of warfare, superintelligence, and the implications of extreme prosperity.

By asking questions like “Are you a machine?” and “Could a computer feel anything?”, Reese leads you through a discussion along the cutting edge in robotics and AI, and, provides a framework by which we can all understand, discuss, and act on the issues of the Fourth Age, and how they’ll transform humanity.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Apr 24, 2018
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Duration
11h 4m 38s
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ISBN
9781508257042
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Labor
Science / General
Science / Life Sciences / Evolution
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Eligible for Family Library

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In his million-copy bestseller Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond examined how and why Western civilizations developed the technologies and immunities that allowed them to dominate much of the world. Now in this brilliant companion volume, Diamond probes the other side of the equation: What caused some of the great civilizations of the past to collapse into ruin, and what can we learn from their fates?

As in Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond weaves an all-encompassing global thesis through a series of fascinating historical-cultural narratives. Moving from the Polynesian cultures on Easter Island to the flourishing American civilizations of the Anasazi and the Maya and finally to the doomed Viking colony on Greenland, Diamond traces the fundamental pattern of catastrophe. Environmental damage, climate change, rapid population growth, and unwise political choices were all factors in the demise of these societies, but other societies found solutions and persisted. Similar problems face us today and have already brought disaster to Rwanda and Haiti, even as China and Australia are trying to cope in innovative ways. Despite our own society’s apparently inexhaustible wealth and unrivaled political power, ominous warning signs have begun to emerge even in ecologically robust areas like Montana.

Brilliant, illuminating, and immensely absorbing, Collapse is destined to take its place as one of the essential books of our time, raising the urgent question: How can our world best avoid committing ecological suicide?

Look out for Jared Diamond's latest book, The World Until Yesterday, coming from Viking in January 2013.

Let's take stock of young America. Compared to previous generations, American youth have more schooling (college enrollments have never been higher); more money ($100 a week in disposable income); more leisure time (five hours a day); and more news and information (Internet, The Daily Show, RSS feeds). What do they do with all that time and money? They download, upload, IM, post, chat, and network. (Nine of their top ten sites are for social networking.) They watch television and play video games (2 to 4 hours per day). And here is what they don't do: They don't read, even online (two thirds aren't proficient in reading); they don't follow politics (most can't name their mayor, governor, or senator); they don't maintain a brisk work ethic (just ask employers); and they don't vote regularly (45 percent can't comprehend a ballot). They are the dumbest generation. They enjoy all the advantages of a prosperous, high-tech society. Digital technology has fabulously empowered them, loosened the hold of elders. Yet adolescents use these tools to wrap themselves in a generational cocoon filled with puerile banter and coarse images. The founts of knowledge are everywhere, but the rising generation camps in the desert, exchanging stories, pictures, tunes, and texts, savoring the thrill of peer attention. If they don't change, they will be remembered as fortunate ones who were unworthy of the privileges they inherited. They may even be the generation that lost that great American heritage, forever.
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