Genius Makers by Cade Metz [6/10]

As wave after wave of books on artificial intelligence proliferate, journalist Cade Metz offers a new lens, the lens of the geeky brains underpinning the state and corporate pushes. “Genius Makers: The Mavericks Who Brought A.I. to Google, Facebook, and the World” follows five decades of the careers of the individual nerds with the breakthrough ideas. Metz has amazing access to a stunning group of brilliant, often reclusive academics, some of whom have made fortunes from persisting with unpopular ideas. Metz’s story follows the academic history, from the early unpopularity of the neural network idea (in which computers “learn” to recognize patterns based on huge volumes of data) to its triumph in the new century; the technological history, such as AI’s mastery of the most complex game in the world, Go; and the practical, corporate history, including the triumph of the new theory in fields such as translation. Overlaying all of this are the twinned histories of geeks making fortunes and the Googles, Microsofts, Facebooks, and Amazons of the world (let alone the Chinese) expending millions. Genius Makers is a valuable adjunct to other popularizing histories, and it is engrossingly entertaining, although by the climax of the book in our today of promise and uncertainty, one is left a little benumbed by similar tales of mavericks enmeshed in corporate battles. Recommended.

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