Book review: The future is going to be incredible

“The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future” by Kevin Kelly

This is a very exciting book to read, with all the possibilities of our future technology all laid out by Kevin Kelly, the co-founding editor of Wired magazine, whom sees the future with a glass half full approach.

While many smart people from Stephen Hawking to Elon Musk have expressed their concerns over the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that can overtake humans as the dominant force on Earth, Kelly argues that AI can actually help us become better at we do, whether it’s to become a better doctor, better pilots, better judges, even better teachers. Because the most crucial thing about thinking machines is that they will think differently,  just like AI will drive a car differently than our easily distracted minds or sees the mystery of the Dark Matter from completely different angles.

Moreover, Kelly then elaborates that “In the real world—even in the space of powerful minds—trade-offs rule. One mind cannot do all mindful things perfectly well. A particular species of mind will be better in certain dimensions, but at a cost of lesser abilities in other dimensions.” This limitation also applies in AI, thus would then prevent them to become our dark overlords.

For example, the AI that diagnose our illness will have completely different capabilities than the ones that guide a self-driving truck, the one that can evaluate our mortgages aren’t capable of safeguarding our houses, while the AI that can predict our weather pattern will have a different intelligence than the ones that can manufacture clothings.

Kelly then list 25 possible types of AI’s “new minds” that are superior than ours but would be very beneficial for us humans without the risk of overpowering us. And these variations are just so powerful, an absolute goldmine.

And that, in essence, is the bedrock argument of this book, which he then proceeded to discuss every possible technicalities in many areas of industries, covering every single future possibilities in every aspects of life, including the extend of the technology that could make the movie Minority Report a possibility, where the movie describe a not-so-distant future where surveillance are used to arrest criminals before they commit a crime.

The book also explains the progress that are already happening in the world, such as the technology and concept behind the likes of Uber, AirBnb, Spotify, Netflix, Kindle, Wikipedia, Tesla, WeChat, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, among many others, to Torrent, Second Life, Nest smart thermostat, wearables such as Apple Watch, Bell’s bodycam, until cloud services, Bitcoin, “Big Data”, and Virtual Reality.

All in all, the book state that this is just the beginning of the internet era, and that we need to create AIs that can think differently for specific tasks which would immensely help us in progressing as a society. And it has so far proven right, as the book was written in 2016 and today in 2021 a lot of what Kelly had said are already happening, for better and for worse.

Immensely enlightening book, easily becomes one of my top favourites, very highly recommended.