The Sentient Machine – A treatise on the debate around AI.

3 mins read

Amir Husain and I have never met. We have known each other for a while, cross posted blogs, exchanged emails, wishes, greetings and condolences,. Last night I finally picked up my copy of The Sentient Machine, Amir’s treatise on AI for people like me who are so out of touch with technology that we have to be fed with a very large and patient spoon.

TL;DR; Two words. Buy it.

A treatise on the debate around AI
Amir Husain – The Sentient Machine

Within the first few pages, it seemed as if we had finally gotten together after all these years. Our plans of being in the same time zone finally realized because Amir penned down his thoughts. A pleasant conversation between friends who have met after decades.

I had been looking for a book for Amin, our college bound eldest, to get him to see the context behind Artificial Intelligence just like we had done with UX/UI and more recently with game design.  While Amin has bee quite keen on UX/UI and game design, in his opinion AI just had too much math within it to be of interest.

If you are a high school, college and university professor who is trying to get his students to gently break into AI with scaring them off with vector mathematics, statistical analysis or R, the Sentient Machine should be recommended reading for your class. The book has no math just context. And relevant context at that.  Context that you should use to pick and build course and final year projects. Amir does a great job of walking us through current and future AI applications of the field without putting people new to the field to sleep. Still I had to do a bit of selling to convince him to take a shot at the book. I told him it is written by an old friend who builds terminators and is a big believer in the fact that Skynet is here and can be convinced to let all of us live together in peace.

Amir begins by walking us through the context and difference between Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) and Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI). The upcoming arrival of the Singularity – the self aware, conscious AI that we are all really really afraid of. He cover the debate across both sides – will AI drive us to extinction and irrelevance or do we actually have a role to play in an AI dominant future. In quite a few instance I understand Amir point of view. The genie is out of the bottle we can’t stuff it back. Bans and funding cuts are not going to shut down AI research, they are simply going to drive it underground. The best way to be prepared for the future is to play an active part in building it. And the only counter argument and defense against a malicious AI will be a beneficent one who is on our side.

The two questions I did have on Amir’s treatment were how AGI is likely to read and react to prisoner’s dilemma, when humanity is on the other side. My second big issue was on Amir’s treatment on the role of AI in financial markets today and in the future.

While I have to take up a few issues with Amir on points that we disagree on, pick up a copy of the book. I strongly recommend it. I finished it in two readings, in back to back sessions. Only because I stayed late way past my bed time reading it. After ages I found a non-fiction text, that too by a friend, that I could sit out and read under the morning breeze with my rare cup of coffee in the balcony.

With Amir’s help I can now talk sensibly about the subject without letting on that once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away, I too worked with back propagation using it to figure out a way to forecast financial security prices with it.

Don’t wait, order your copy now at