AI Superpowers Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: AI Superpowers will help you understand what to expect of the effect that artificial intelligence will have on your future job opportunities by diving into where China and the US, the world’s two leaders in AI, are heading with this breakthrough technology.

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Cars can now drive on their own. Drones fight fires. Your email provider may even be able to finish your sentences. We live in a day when artificial intelligence applications are all around us. But where exactly does this technology stand right now?

The answer is the United States and China, the two superpowers of automation. Kai-Fu Lee’s AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order goes into depth on AI. His experience in the field ranges from Silicon Valley behemoths like Apple and Microsoft in the US to the equivalents in China. 

These are the 3 most interesting lessons this book teaches about artificial intelligence:

  1. Deep learning breakthroughs now put us on the edge of automation affecting all aspects of our economy.
  2. There is a division among leaders and authorities regarding whether or not AI will lead to a prosperous or destitute future for mankind.
  3. Hope for a future where your job isn’t obsolete comes from looking at the major difference between computers and humans.

Do you want to know if you’re going to be employable in 50 years? Let’s find out what this book has to teach us!

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Lesson 1: Nearly everything in our world is on the verge of succumbing to automation due to great breakthroughs in deep learning.

Many years ago the idea of artificial intelligence was mere science fiction. But we’re long past that point. All of us wonder where the technology is heading and what it will change about our lives. 

The author speaks on this subject at many schools and conferences. Chinese schoolchildren ask the same questions as CEOs. They wonder if they’re going to get AI teachers or the kind of jobs that will be available to them. I think those are things we all want to know!

Making computers as intelligent as humans dates back to the 1950s. John McCarthy and Marvin Minsky, for example, were two researchers with a desire to embed human intellect into computers. By the time of the author’s entry into the field in the early 80s, there were two camps: rule-based and neural network.

Rule-based folks thought to teach machines one law at a time. Those on the neural network side let computers learn on their own and develop intelligence with experience. But these machines needed a lot of data to grow. 

This problem was solved in the early 2000s when AI researcher Geoffrey Hinton had a breakthrough that significantly multiplied processing power. His new algorithm smashed the competition at visual recognition in a 2012 contest. This was when the technology began going by the new name of deep learning and opened the way for countless possibilities.

Lesson 2: Authorities and experts are largely divided on the future that AI will bring for humanity.

So, will AI bring a prosperous future, or will it mean the destruction of mankind? While the idea of Terminator robots taking over isn’t realistic, many of us do wonder if we’ll be able to hold a job when AI can do it for us. 

Experts like Ray Kurzweil believe that machines are the tool that can finally upgrade our own bodies and minds. We can get smarter and live longer with this technology. Another AI researcher by the name of Demis Hassabis has the vision that AI can help us cure diseases and end problems like climate change.

On the other side, however, we’ve got Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking. These two and others in their camp see AI as a threat to our species. You might get a computer to provide a solution to global warming, but what happens when part of that is the eradication of humans from the planet?

Economically there’s a great divide as well. This mostly comes from a 2013 Oxford study that declared 47% of US jobs are at risk of automation. As companies want to cut costs and boost profits, letting computers do as many tasks as possible becomes pretty appealing. 

Don’t panic yet, though. Other research indicates that tasks will be automated but not entire jobs. Some studies put the estimate of jobs at risk as much lower. The truth is, we are doing the research and learning more every day.

Lesson 3: There is at least one significant quality of humans that sets us apart from computers and gives us irreplaceable advantages over them.

Lee’s life changed after a diagnosis of stage IV lymphoma in 2013. Previously a workaholic, his illness made him see the importance of his relationships. These are what really matter and give our lives meaning, and thankfully they are also what set us apart from AI. 

The author is now in remission and his view of the future of humans and AI is changing. We’ve got a great chance to give many undesirable jobs to computers and make the important aspects of our lives better. But we’ve got to make some changes to the type of work we value for this to work. 

Our world’s highest-paid positions are those that create profit, but these are the ones that can most easily benefit from automation. Jobs that require a person, like caregivers and personal aids, are underpaid but are more difficult to turn over to computers. 

First, we can let AI create profit in the business areas. Then we might have a better chance of increasing the appeal of social-oriented jobs by paying what workers in them deserve. 

For this to work best it might require taxing the wealthy to make a universal basic income possible. Relying on this alone wouldn’t be enough, however. We need an entire societal shift to value money and profits less. Our focus must be on the relationships and love that sets us apart from computers.

AI Superpowers Review

AI Superpowers is a really interesting book that I think everyone should at least know the major points of. I’ve always wondered if my job will be replaced by automation as I’m sure many people do. I’m glad to learn a little about what the future may hold so I can know how to prepare if that does happen.

Who would I recommend the AI Superpowers summary to?

The 53-year-old who loves learning about the future of society, the 23-year-old that feels uncertain about computers replacing their job, and anyone who wants to know about the current state of artificial intelligence.

Last Updated on July 23, 2023

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Luke Rowley

With over 450 summaries that he contributed to Four Minute Books, first as a part-time writer, then as our full-time Managing Editor until late 2021, Luke is our second-most prolific writer. He's also a professional, licensed engineer, working in the solar industry. Next to his day job, he also runs Goal Engineering, a website dedicated to achieving your goals with a unique, 4-4-4 system. Luke is also a husband, father, 75 Hard finisher, and lover of the outdoors. He lives in Utah with his wife and 3 kids.