The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity

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Author Byron Reese posits that human history can be broken into four ages, each age marked by a significant shift caused by technology. The first three ages were shaped by the discovery/cultivation of fire, agriculture, and the wheel/writing. The fourth age, in which we now find ourselves, is shaped, of course, by computers and artificial intelligence. So Reese attempts to tackle some of the questions, myths, and possibilities about this emerging era. In particular, Reese is interested in discussing the possibility of sentient artificial intelligence and the line between human and machine that such potential technology prompts.

The question of just what separates humans from machines is a long-standing one. Ever since machines began doing labor formerly done by a human, we’ve started to wonder just what the difference is. A soul (and if so, what is that)? Independent thought? Feelings? There are dead-ends and trapdoors within the maze of each of those arguments, and Reese’s book engages all of them.

I love a good philosophical conundrum, so I enjoyed The Fourth Age. And I learned quite a bit about artificial intelligence, including just how near or far we are from creating sentient, adaptable robotic intelligence. The one notable drawback to the book is the sometime-oversimplification of history and its relationship to technology. If you’re intrigued by the definition of “human,” the impact of technology across our human history, and/or sentient machines, I think you’ll very much enjoy the work Byron Reese does here.


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Author Byron Reese
Star Count 4/5
Format Hard
Page Count 336 pages
Publisher Atria Books
Publish Date 2018-Apr-24
ISBN 9781501158568
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue September 2018
Category Technology
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