Holiday reading

I’m on holiday & luxuriating in the reading time, mostly non-work books. I did, though, read AIQ: How Artificial Intelligence Works and etc etc (am fed up now with these super-long subtitles) by Nick Polson and James Scott. If you read about AI already then this won’t add anything new. However, it’s a very nice, accessible and balanced introduction to AI for those who aren’t semi-immersed already, which is most people of course. The book explains the basics, and gives lots of examples of what ML and AI are already doing, and what they might be capable of in future – while also explaining what the potential risks are. It’s an enjoyable read, too, with lots of stories and real world examples. It isn’t Pollyannaish exactly, but it is nice to read something on this subject that isn’t all gloom and doom. AI beginners should start here.

One thing I particularly appreciated was the way the authors highlight the role of female scientific pioneers: astronomer Henrietta Leavitt (no, I’d never heard of her either), Grace Hopper, and Florence Nightingale. I learnt some new things: that real time data monitoring is already a thing in Formula 1 racing and starting now in basketball, for instance. There’s also a nice section on health explaining that the barriers to using AI and health data are not technological but social and economic – which will make it extremely hard to use data for the benefit of individual patients, even as massive data sets enable research on populations.

Apart from that, it’s been a diet of detective novels – Mick Herron’s Dead Lions (love this series), Abir Mukherjee’s A Rising Man – and also Stanislaw Lem’s The Cyberiad (clever but an acquired taste). And now, the great Swedish outdoors beckons.

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