The Atomic Human : Understanding Ourselves in the Age of AI



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Author: Lawrence, Neil D.

Social forecasting, future studies

Published on 6 June 2024 by Penguin Books Ltd (Allen Lane) in the United Kingdom.

Hardback | 448 pages
241 x 162 x 38 | 676g

‘The clarity, authority, wit and insight Lawrence brings to bear are like torches shining into the turbulent darkness of a subject we all wonder at, but which we mostly feel unable to even to think or talk about with any confidence. Hugely recommended’ Stephen FryWhat does Artificial Intelligence mean for our identity? Our fascination with AI stems from the perceived uniqueness of human intelligence. We believe it's what differentiates us. Fears of AI not only concern how it invades our digital lives, but also the implied threat of an intelligence that displaces us from our position at the centre of the world.

Neil D. Lawrence's visionary book shows why these fears may be misplaced. Atomism, proposed by Democritus, suggested it was impossible to continue dividing matter down into ever smaller components: eventually we reach a point where a cut cannot be made (the Greek for uncuttable is 'atom'). In the same way, by slicing away at the facets of human intelligence that can be replaced by machines, AI uncovers what is left: an indivisible core that is the essence of humanity.

Human intelligence has evolved across hundreds of thousands of years. Due to our physical and cognitive constraints over that time, it is social and highly embodied. By contrasting our capabilities with machine intelligence, The Atomic Human reveals the technical origins, capabilities and limitations of AI systems, and how they should be wielded. Not just by the experts, but ordinary people. Understanding this will enable readers to choose the future we want – either one where AI is a tool for us, or where we become a tool of AI – and how to counteract the digital oligarchy to maintain the fabric of an open, fair and democratic society.