Book Review: Depiction of rationality and effective altruism

When Artificial Intelligence is depicted in films and books it tends to be capable of learning to feel emotions, and absorbing moral values. This book, The AI Does Not Hate You: Superintelligence, Rationality, and the Race to Save the World by Tom Chivers is said to be the first-ever book-length examination of the modern rationalist community. It is based around in-person conversations with many of the notable figures in and around the rationalist community.

The title of the book is actually an aphorism from Eliezer Yudkowsky. The actual lines are “The AI does not hate you, nor does it love you, but you are made of atoms which it can use for something else.”

The book mostly is related to the author’s personal quest to figure out how seriously he should take this scenario. Are the rationalists just an unusually nerdy doomsday cult?

Do the dramatic advances in machine learning over the past decade change the outlook? Should Chivers be worried about his own two children? How does this risk compare to the more “prosaic” civilisational risks, like climate change or nuclear war? These are some of the questions that will arise in the minds of the readers and exploring the answers to these questions will be something interesting as none of these questions

are obvious.

Chivers does perform the journalist’s task of constantly challenging the rationalists he meets, often with points that (if upheld) would be fatal to their worldview. One of the rationalists’ best features — and this precisely matches my own experience — is that, far from clamming up or storming off when faced with such challenges (“lo! the visitor is not one of us!”), the rationalists positively relish them.

The book will probably have little that is new, although it might still be interesting to revisit ideas and episodes that might be known through a newcomer’s eyes. However, I am confident that this book will surely make a positive difference — possibly for the world, but at any rate for a little well-meaning community of sneered-at nerds obsessed with the future and with following ideas wherever they lead.