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10 Books Recommended by Elon Musk I’m Punching Myself for Not Reading Sooner

Can AI and capitalism be good?

10 Books Recommended by Elon Musk I’m Punching Myself for Not Reading Sooner
Britta Pedersen-Pool/Getty Images

Artificial intelligence is scary.

But you know what is more scary? Ignorance.

Ignorance might be bliss, but it means when we face reality, we are totally unprepared.

This is because we have spent too much time with our heads in the sand.

In order to be more informed about the world around you, make books your friends.

For today, we are bringing you a list of books recommended by the tech tycoon, Elon Musk.

Let’s go!

10 Books Recommended by Elon Musk I’m Punching Myself for Not Reading Sooner

Be careful with the bomb!

The rise of AI technologies is making a lot of us uncomfortable.

Knowledge is power. So read this book to learn the ins and outs of Artificial Intelligence.

“We find ourselves in a thicket of strategic complexity, surrounded by a dense mist of uncertainty.”

Humans don’t know what they are doing. The author likens the human race to a child (or children) playing with a bomb. And there is no stopping them.

Keeping in view the AI boom, first, intelligence that matches human intelligence will be made. Then it will be time for superintelligence. Superintelligence refers to the intelligence that greatly surpasses that of humans.

“Before the prospect of an intelligence explosion, we humans are like small children playing with a bomb.”

In order to make sure that artificial intelligence doesn’t lead to our demise, we need to make sure that AI objectives are aligned with human values.

The author also discusses the problem of control. An AI agent might resist the attempts to turn it off. We need to be prepared for the various challenges in order to preserve the human race.

10 Books Recommended by Elon Musk I’m Punching Myself for Not Reading Sooner

Fat wallets care for no one.

I think we all have an idea of what happens when vested interests and money come together.

Truth is hidden and trampled on.

What if a product is killing us? We have the right to know, right? But what about those who gain money from people buying that product?

They don’t want a reduction in their earnings.

“In the 1950s, the tobacco industry realized that they could protect their product by casting doubt on the science and insisting the dangers of smoking were unproven.”

One of the examples the author gives is of the tobacco industry. The tobacco industry knew the dangers of smoking.

But, they chose to cover it up. They cast doubt on science.

Similarly, Rachel Carson is a marine biologist who blew the whistle on the harmful effects of DDT. As she worked for new regulations to be passed regarding pesticides, she became a victim of a smear campaign at the hands of the chemical industry.

“Doubt is crucial to science in the version we call curiosity or healthy scepticism, it drives science forward — but it also makes science vulnerable to misrepresentation, because it is easy to take uncertainties out of context and create the impression that everything is unresolved.”

Doubt exists in science. I think doubt itself becomes doubtful when it is used for the sake of money.

This book will open your eyes to the greedy tactics of businesses.

10 Books Recommended by Elon Musk I’m Punching Myself for Not Reading Sooner

A (very) strong case against lying.

Lying is bad. We all know it.

But how bad is it really?

“Few of us are murderers or thieves, but we have all been liars.”

Sam Harris is relentless in his approach. He makes us see that lies, even innocuous ones, bring more harm than good. They keep the real issues under wraps. They prevent us from having a true and honest relationship with others.

“Lies are the social equivalent of toxic waste: Everyone is potentially harmed by their spread.”

Most of all, lying takes up our minds. It makes us do mental math at all times.

In contrast, if you tell the truth, you don’t have to worry about what you said to whom.

“Unlike statements of fact, which require no further work on our part, lies must be continually protected from collisions with reality.”

I can’t say I have never lied. But I know, for the most part, I really don’t. And it gives me peace.

10 Books Recommended by Elon Musk I’m Punching Myself for Not Reading Sooner

The good side of the oft-hated capitalism.

What is a free market?

A free market is ruled by demand and supply. It has little to no government intervention.

Meanwhile, capitalism refers to a system where the goods are privately owned. The owners are driven by their goal of earning profits. Competition is the hallmark of this system.

Is capitalism good? Depends on who you ask.

Some are just going with the flow when they say ‘Down with Capitalism’, while others have done their research.

The author of this book is in favor of capitalism and free markets. Regarding the benefits of free markets, he says the following:

“…countries with freer markets have faster growth, better wages, greater poverty reduction, more investment, less corruption, higher subjective well-being and are more democratic, with greater respect for human rights.”

The author compares human life as it existed before with the current times. He attributes all progress to capitalism, free markets, and globalization.

10 Books Recommended by Elon Musk I’m Punching Myself for Not Reading Sooner

What will it mean to be human when AI’s abilities surpass ours?

The author defines intelligence as “the ability to accomplish complex goals”.

Humans are the most intelligent and the most conscious beings on this planet right now. The author predicts that AI will surpass humans.

“We are the first generation to be able to shape our own destiny, for better or for worse.”

What will be our future then?

This is the question Tegmark tries to answer. We might be living side by side with cyborgs. Or the world could end up in shambles.

“AI should not be seen as a threat, but as an opportunity for collaboration and co-evolution.”

Again, preparedness is the key. The author lists four operations for AI safety.

  1. Verification

  2. Validation

  3. Security

  4. Control

10 Books Recommended by Elon Musk I’m Punching Myself for Not Reading Sooner

The inevitable clash.

Just like a mother has a hard time giving her son up when a daughter-in-law enters the picture, nations also have a hard time giving up their authority when a new one enters.

The history is a testament to that.

Graham Allison brings us the concept of Thucydides’s Trap. He defines it as follows:

“Thucydides’s Trap refers to the natural, inevitable discombobulation that occurs when a rising power threatens to displace a ruling power.”

In this book, the author discusses the power struggle between the US and China.

The US is a global economic power. China’s growth threatens its place. In 1980, China’s GDP was 7% of the US’s GDP. In 2017, it became 61%.

That is just one glimpse into the economic growth of China.

“To escape Thucydides’s Trap, we must be willing to think the unthinkable — and imagine the unimaginable. Avoiding Thucydides’s Trap in this case will require nothing less than bending the arc of history.”

A catastrophic military conflict is not inconceivable. Although, for the sake of this world and its people, we better avoid it.

Can we though?

It is possible, says Allison. He gives us historical examples where such a clash didn’t occur despite the right circumstances.

10 Books Recommended by Elon Musk I’m Punching Myself for Not Reading Sooner

It’s time to go to space!

It is funny. It is science fiction. And it will make a perfect read for an evening in.

We meet Arthur Dent, a human, and his companion Ford Prefect, an alien.

“One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about humans was their habit of continually stating and repeating the very very obvious.”

They escape in the wake of Earth being destroyed by the Vogons. It is when Ford reveals that he is a researcher for an encyclopedia named ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’.

The rest of the book follows the adventures of the duo with various ups and downs. It also introduces many new characters.

The book has witty and satirical dialogues. Like his one:

“Very deep. You should send that in to the Reader’s Digest. They’ve got a page for people like you.”

If you are up for a space adventure, pick up this book!

10 Books Recommended by Elon Musk I’m Punching Myself for Not Reading Sooner

The good and the bad of AI.

A third AI book?

Well, what did you expect? You started going through the recommendations of a tech entrepreneur. AI is all the rage in tech right now. Of course, there will be books about it.

“Alas, the human race is not a single, rational entity.”

The author shows us the good and the bad that AI can bring.

When AI reaches the human level or outdoes it, all the human tasks will be automated.

This will allow cheapening of products and services. More people will be able to afford them.

The lifestyle of humans will improve overall.

Obviously, everything is not that simple. On the flip side are the dangerous weapons and the surveillance. That is, even if we keep control of AI.

“To get just an inkling of the fire we’re playing with, consider how content-selection algorithms function on social media.”

Stuart Russell thinks that the roadblock in AI development is not the hardware but the algorithms. Many breakthroughs are needed in order for further enhancement and finetuning of AI programs.

10 Books Recommended by Elon Musk I’m Punching Myself for Not Reading Sooner

From a printer to a founding father.

This book is a biography of the great Benjamin Franklin.

It seems that Benjamin Franklin was a jack of all trades. He was a printer, a writer, a businessman, a scientist, and a politician.

“History is a tale, Franklin came to believe, not of immutable forces but of human endeavors.”

Franklin started out as a printer and later went into business himself.

He wrote ‘Poor Richard’s Almanack’. It was a yearly publication whose first edition was published in 1732. It went on to be a very successful venture.

“Compromisers may not make great heroes, but they do make democracies.”

As a politician, Franklin toured the colonies and went on to represent America in England. His contributions to American independence are vital. He also helped draft the Declaration of Independence.

10 Books Recommended by Elon Musk I’m Punching Myself for Not Reading Sooner

Shifting the focus.

The key message of this book is to ‘do good’.

The author motivates us to not do business only for the sake of profits. Instead, he wants us to benefit the people and the world around us.

He surmises that ‘business as usual’ where the sole focus is profits is not working.

“Doing good is good for business”

Richard Branson draws on many of his own experiences in the book.

He brings us the concept of ‘Capitalism 24902’. 24902 miles is the earth’s circumference.

Since Branson’s philosophy focuses on the betterment of the whole world, hence the name.

“As soon as something stops being fun, I think it’s time to move on. Life is too short to be unhappy. Waking up stressed and miserable is not a good way to live.”

The concept brought forth in this book has a very strong appeal. I mean, wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all started to care for the whole world?


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If you enjoyed these book recommendations, check out the rest of my book lists on my blog-

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