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Roula Khalaf, editor of the FT, picks her favorite stories in this weekly newsletter.
The madman by Benjamín Labatut (Pushkin Press/Penguin Press)
This “work of fiction based on fact” is a stunning portrayal of Johnny von Neumann, the Hungarian-born mathematical genius who helped invent the atomic bomb and conceptualize artificial intelligence. Imaginatively told through the fictional personal testimony of von Neumann’s friends and family, the book is as riveting as it is disturbing.
The Worlds I See: Curiosity, Exploration and Discovery at the Dawn of AI by Fei-Fei Li (Flatiron Books)
In this very personal and readable book, Li tells how a poor Chinese immigrant to the United States emerged as one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of artificial intelligence. She also offers many smart insights into the AI revolution itself. A powerful plea to keep humanity at the center of our latest technological transformation.
The Coming Wave: AI, Power and the 21st Century’s Biggest Dilemma by Mustafa Suleyman with Michael Bhaskar (Crown/Bodley Head)
Confused by the current furore about AI? This book is a good place to start. Although overloaded in parts, The coming wave is a comprehensive account of recent advances in artificial intelligence and synthetic biology. The co-founder of DeepMind offers his own thoughts on how societies can better prepare for the great transformation.
Let us know what you think
What are your favorites from this list – and which books did we miss? Let us know in the comments below
Your face belongs to us: The secretive start-up that interrupts your privacy by Kashmir Hill (Simon & Schuster)
A New York Times reporter investigates the secretive start-up Clearview AI, which is selling its facial recognition technology to the police. Such technology can help solve crime, but it also erodes privacy and can reinforce unfair discrimination against marginalized people. In its focus on the ambiguous duality of technology, a parable for our time.
Power and Progress: Our Millennial Struggle for Technology and Prosperity by Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson (Basic Books/Public Affairs)
Two MIT economists explore how technology has historically improved lives and driven extraordinary prosperity, but also resulted in societal disruption and inequality. Faced with new upheavals, the authors make a positive case for how societies can maximize the benefits of our powerful new technologies for the benefit of all.
Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster)
Isaacson’s biography of the South African entrepreneur, described by the FT as a “quick 688-page read” for the TikTok generation, moves at leg-rattling speed. It certainly makes for an entertaining exploration of Musk’s celebrity. But not much of an explanation for how Musk remade the auto and space industries.
Books of the year 2023
All this week, FT writers and critics are sharing their favourites. Some highlights are:
Monday: Business by Andrew Hill
Tuesday: Environment by Pilita Clark
Wednesday: Economics by Martin Wolf
Thursday: Fiction by Laura Battle and Andrew Dickson
Friday: Politics by Gideon Rachman
Saturday: Critics’ Choice
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