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A Reading List for Futurists A Reading List for Futurists

A Reading List for Futurists

by Roko Mijic

January 27, 2010


More material to help you understand the future of technology and artificial intelligence.

The tenth and final post in a GOOD miniseries on the singularity by Michael Anissimov and Roko Mijic.

Interested in finding out more about the singularity and going beyond this short series? Here are a few interesting books you can read to increase your knowledge about the singularity and associated topics:

The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil

Kurzweil may be outspoken and provocative, but anyone who reads his obligatory book on the technological singularity will have to admit that he has done extensive research on the topics he talks about. The Singularity is Near approaches the singularity from an engineer's point of view. It is thorough, with lots of attention to detail and lots of quantitative analysis.

Catastrophe: Risk and Response by Richard Posner

This book is especially interesting because it is written by something of an outsider. Richard Posner doesn't move in traditional transhumanist circles; he is a U.S. judge and legal scholar, and this work on catastrophic risks is most scholarly indeed.

Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime by Aubrey De Grey

In this work, Aubrey de Grey outlines his engineering approach to ending—or at least dramatically retarding—human aging. Read this book for an introduction to the concept of "longevity escape velocity": How you can live long enough to live forever.

"Why the Future Doesn't Need Us" by Bill Joy

"Our most powerful 21st-century technologies—robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotech—are threatening to make humans an endangered species," writes Joy. This almost book-length essay on the risks of future technologies was ahead of its time and is still very worth reading.

Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing and Computation by K. Eric Drexler

This book is the premier work on advanced nanotechnology, and Drexler demonstrates his mastery of physical science and its possible applications.

The Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks

I wanted to include some fiction in this list, and at least one fairly optimistic work: The Use of Weapons is both. Banks paints a picture of a future where humanity has created benevolent superintelligent AIs called Minds, and in this book more than the rest of his Culture series, we get to see how that affects a vaguely human society. Sex so good the protagonist thinks his partner is having a fit, 10-mile long spaceships, customized experiences, and the ethical dilemma of when to forcefully rescue other civilizations from their constricting lesser societies are all included. This was my introduction to transhumanist ideas, so occupies a special place in my heart.

Roko Mijic is a Cambridge University mathematics graduate, and has worked in ultra low-temperature engineering, pure mathematics, digital evolution and artificial intelligence. In his spare time he blogs about the future of the human race and the philosophical foundations of ethics and human values.

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A Reading List for Futurists