The Fourth Age
Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity
Simon & Schuster 2018
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In his new book, The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity (Simon & Schuster, 2018), futurist, technologist, and CEO of Gigaom, 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; and 5,000 years ago, we invented the wheel and writing, which lead to the nation state. He tells us that we are now on the doorstep of a fourth change brought about by two technologies: AI and robotics. His book provides an essential background on how we got to this point, and how—rather than what—we should think about the topics we’ll soon all be facing, such as machine consciousness, automation, changes in 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 cultivates discussion at 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.
Byron Reese is the CEO and publisher of the industry-leading technology research company Gigaom, and the founder of several high-tech companies. He has spent the better part of his life exploring the interplay of technology with human history. Reese has patents, obtained and pending, in disciplines as varied as crowdsourcing, content creation, and psychographics. The websites he has launched, which cover the intersection of technology, business, science, and history, have together received over a billion visitors and he is author of the acclaimed book, Infinite Progress: How Technology and the Internet Will End Ignorance, Disease, Hunger, Poverty, and War. He joins me today to talk about his new book, The Fourth Age.
Carrie Lynn Evans is a PhD student at Université Laval in Quebec City.