How to Stay Smart in a Smart World
Why Human Intelligence Still Beats Algorithms
How to stay in charge in a world populated by algorithms that beat us in chess, find us romantic partners, and tell us to “turn right in 500 yards.”
Doomsday prophets of technology predict that robots will take over the world, leaving humans behind in the dust. Tech industry boosters think replacing people with software might make the world a better place—while tech industry critics warn darkly about surveillance capitalism. Despite their differing views of the future, they all seem to agree: machines will soon do everything better than humans. In How to Stay Smart in a Smart World, Gerd Gigerenzer shows why that's not true, and tells us how we can stay in charge in a world populated by algorithms.
Machines powered by artificial intelligence are good at some things (playing chess), but not others (life-and-death decisions, or anything involving uncertainty). Gigerenzer explains why algorithms often fail at finding us romantic partners (love is not chess), why self-driving cars fall prey to the Russian Tank Fallacy, and how judges and police rely increasingly on nontransparent “black box” algorithms to predict whether a criminal defendant will reoffend or show up in court. He invokes Black Mirror, considers the privacy paradox (people want privacy but give their data away), and explains that social media get us hooked by programming intermittent reinforcement in the form of the “like” button. We shouldn't trust smart technology unconditionally, Gigerenzer tells us, but we shouldn't fear it unthinkingly, either.
"This is a masterful weaving of different facets of artificial intelligence that manages to cover some extremely complex topics in a way that non-specialists can readily understand. It is also highly readable — Gigerenzer is such a good writer, and his examples are very compelling. I think it is an essential read because it provides an important perspective on AI for all those who are tired of being bombarded by hype and exaggerated claims, and for those who are rightfully worried about the dangers to society that are posed by AI."
Gary Klein, Ph.D., author of Sources of Power: How people make decisions, and CEO of ShadowBox LLC
“In clear, unencumbered, and unpretentious prose, Gigerenzer demystifies the logic of our 'smart' societies. And despite cataloguing many depressing examples of the ambitions of big tech, the overall message of the book—and indeed the author's view of human nature—is empowering.”
John Zerilli, University of Oxford, co-author of A Citizen's Guide to Artificial Intelligence (MIT Press)
“Gerd Gigerenzer is the most original and coherent follower of the bounded rationality tradition of Herbert Simon in economics and decision making. The inspiring book dispels many myths about the predictive power of connectionist AI, describes its failures to tackle uncertain and unstable phenomena, and relaunches the simulationist psychological approach as the best way towards an ethical and Human AI.”
Riccardo Viale, Full Professor in Behavioral Sciences and Cognitive Economics, University of Milano Bicocca and Secretary General of Herbert Simon Society