Books We Are Reading




Crisis Of Control 

Written by Peter J. Scott

Reviewed by Adam Armstrong


Horror is fun as it gives us a chance to be scared in a controlled manner. In our hunter-gatherer days there were plenty of things to jump out of the dark and get us, less so now. Perhaps this drives us toward scares that our system needs to be running in top gear. Of all the things that go bump in the night or could happen, one of the more frightening things may be looking in the mirror or toward our future. Technology has changed our lives dramatically in the last decade. Mankind is practically a cyborg now with our smartphones being an extension of our selves. However, the next big disruption lie right around the corner with artificial intelligence (AI), and it may not be as helpful.


Roughly a decade into our future, several viruses are ravaging mankind. A small band of survivors are looking for a way to get off world. Those that are left here on Earth turn to AI to seek answers. They quickly find that the AI no more cares about helping them than we care about helping a sick ant. As the characters are left pondering their fate the book abruptly switches from being a novel to non-fiction. Not aware of this going in, I actually found this to be a pleasant surprise. 


At this point, Scott artfully defines what AI is as well as its short, but interesting history up to this point. There is much in the media about AI and has been for some time, especially thanks to sci-fi books and movies. However, most of what we see and hear isn't quite right. Scott breaks down the truth of AI and distills it in a way that is accessible to most readers (though, admittedly, there are still a few things so complex it is difficult to wrap one's mind around). Scott also takes time to weigh the potential downfalls, which tend more toward wiping out jobs--especially in the field of coding versus AI becoming Skynet and killing all of us. (AI can write its own code.) Scott also details all the benefits of AI. 

It is nice for someone to look at the situation with a rational mind as opposed to going into hysterics over whether AI will kill or save us.


Scott tends to point to AI being inevitable in our future. However, he clearly lays out various methods of making it safe and beneficial to society in general. And he bookends his argument by revisiting his fictional characters with a bit more hope than they saw at the beginning of the book.


My bread and butter comes from writing in the Information Technology (IT) field. I can tell you that AI is quickly reaching out through various branches of IT, though it hasn't made much of an impact as far as jobs are concerned; it hasn't made any effort to kill all humans either. But the reduction of jobs will come and soon. When that comes about there won't be humans on the other side of the revolution making a new market (think telephone infrastructure rising up to replace messenger boys). So we will need people like Peter Scott to help us shape the future we are stepping into whether we want to or not.


Crisis Of Control is a book that makes you think, especially late at night when you can't sleep. Scott is excellent at lying down the risks and benefits of AI and how we should attempt to pursue its usage moving forward. The danger is real, so arming oneself with more knowledge of how to potentially mitigate it is always a plus. Buy a copy for youself and maybe forward one to the guys at Facebook and Google that are playing with fire in a straw house.


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