AI 2041: Ten Visions for Our Future

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Chen Qiufan and Kai-Fu Lee. AI 2041: Ten Visions for Our Future (預見10個未來新世界).[1] London, UK: W.H. Allen & Co. (an imprint of Ebury Press, a division of Penguin Random House), 2021.[2][3] Also, Currency out of Random House,[4] 2021. Available as an audiobook, from Google Play and Audible.[5]

Reviewed by Virginia L. Conn, "The Tyranny of Neutrality in 'AI 2041'," Los Angeles Review of Books, on line as of November 2021 at the link here.[6]

Artificial intelligence, Lee claims in the introduction, is “the world’s hottest technology,” while Chen posits that “[f]rom the past era to the present day, the unstoppable force of AI has been revolutionizing every dimension of human civilization.” Enthusiastic about their vision for a world transformed by AI, the two collaborated on what would become a sort of call-and-response example of “scientific fiction” (as opposed to “science fiction”) in which Chen contributed 10 short stories focusing on individual aspects of AI technology set within the next 20 years, while Lee follows up with an explanation of that technology in the present [...]. [***]

[...] the selling point of the book is that, while its science fictional visions are themselves only imaginary, they draw on real technology and represent real possible paths for the development of AI. And not in a distant future, either: AI 2041 takes its name seriously. Lee claims that the technologies in the book have at least an 80 percent likelihood of coming to pass by 2041 [...]. [***]

AI 2041, then, with its unique marriage of factual explanation and fictional short stories, joins the rank of a genre that will be familiar to most readers: the techno-utopian promise. But it is perhaps more legible through the lens of “technological solutionism,” a term coined by tech writer Evgeny Morozov to describe the idea that complex social phenomena [...] can be understood as “neatly defined problems with definite, computable solutions or as transparent and self-evident processes” subject to easy optimization [...].

Conn recommends the book, but, as the quote from Morozov and the LARB title hint, with reservations, as an interesting work, but deeply flawed in how it analyzes technology generally and AI specifically: "Is all this to say that artificial intelligence, as a concept and as presented in AI 2041 specifically, is bad? No, but neither is it a net good, as Lee posits, or even neutral[...]."

Reviewed by Tom Shippey, "‘AI 2041’ Review: Tales From an Algorithmic Tomorrow," The Wall Street Journal, 8 October 2021: on line, as of November 2021 here.[7]

++++++++++++++++ Devin Coldeway interviews the authors (and states intent to review the book) at TechCrunch, 22 September 2021, on line as of November 2021 at the link here.[8]

RDE, with thanks to Rob Latham, finishing, 8Nov21