The Sentient Machine

The Coming Age of Artificial Intelligence

By: Amir Husain

Published: 2017

Read: 2018


A practical scan of the current state of AI written by a serial entrepreneur. The book provides a bird’s eye view of applications in a number of specific industries, including health care, cyber security, defense and finance.

The book ends on a more philosophical note in discussing the general pursuit of knowledge. Claiming that the discovery of ideas is the emergent purpose of life and gives it meaning, the author views AI as simply another stepping stone in the pursuit of knowledge.

Worth Reading:

The book provides a helpful summary of some of the key differences between human brains and silicon that drive the application of narrow AI.

The book skims the surface on theory and concepts and is most convincing in discussion of the state of health care, cyber security and defense AI applications. The book gets fairly dark when discussing some of the future applications of AI in social engineering and manipulation.

Helpful reminder of the utility of AI in financial markets, where human behavior is often constrained by intuitive and associative thinking and an inability to properly weigh impact of outlier scenarios, whereas AI can consider all plausible possibilities  (even and especially the counter-intuitive, the highly unlikely, the “mad” ones).

Practical Takeaways:

  • Human intelligence: intuitive and associative.
    • Brain size restrictions (drives data compression, use of short-cuts, intuition).
    • Inputs from a limited number of senses.
    • Slow processing speed (limits of neuronal connections).
  • Artificial intelligence: all plausible scenarios (counter-intuitive, outliers).
    • Fewer size restrictions (ability to scan and hold complete solution landscapes).
    • Potential for inputs from a broader range of sensors.
    • Higher processing speed.

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