Will your next doctor be a human being—or a machine?

New book Social Machines provides a peek at the future of artificial intelligence (AI) and the profound impacts it could have on our humanity

New York | Heidelberg, 26 October 2016

© SpringerWhich would provide more accurate diagnosis and better treatment – a human doctor, an intelligent machine, or some combination of the two?

In Social Machines, authors James Hendler and Alice Mulvehill aim to help readers navigate the partnership between humans and AI. This is not a book about robots, but about the cognitive aspects of AI. Whether in healthcare or the military, we need to know how to get the best from machines while still ensuring human safety and security.

Alice Mulvehill says: “Being AI knowledgeable is crucial to future online life. Rather than being afraid of it, we believe that people need to be well-informed about what it can and can’t do. In this way, we can make smart decisions about how to use or limit the powerful technologies that will shape the social machines of the future.”

The past decade has been exceptional in terms of the pace at which technological advances are propelling change. Computers have entered our social spaces where they can now be found in our cars, our phones and our houses.

James Hendler says: “Social interactions with machines provide them with new data about us and our world. As AI systems evolve, we must understand how this information will change our lives as it is used by industrial, government, or even adversarial organizations.”

Optimists see reasons for hope while pessimists might see reasons for fear. The authors are convinced that the truth lies somewhere in between.

AI would not exist without humans and we are still needed for much of its power. But new advances are continually stretching its limits. The authors had to rewrite one chapter twice as computers finally outwitted humans in the game Go. Meanwhile, humans are limited too, for example by the amount of information we can store or by our emotional reaction to some situations.

Gaming has helped teach us how the partnership can work best. Chess centaurs - where each team is half-human, half-computer – have outperformed the best humans and the best computers. Similarly, a computer can help a doctor mine scientific literature to spot a rare disease. But doctors, with their understanding of humanity, need to stay in the loop.

James Hendler is Director of the Rensselaer Institute for Data Exploration and Applications and one of the developers of the “Semantic Web”. Alice Mulvehill is a research scientist, owner of Memory Based Research LLC, and developer of AI-based systems for DARPA, the Air Force, and NASA. 


James Hendler, Alice M. Mulvehill
Social Machines
The Coming Collision of Artificial Intelligence, Social Networking, and Humanity
2016, 190 p. 51 illus. 46 illus. in color
Softcover € 18.95 (D) | £ 14.50 (A) | $ 24.99
ISBN 978-1-4842-1157-1
Also available as an eBook

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Katrin Petermann | Springer Nature | Communications
tel +49 611 787 8130 | katrin.petermann2@springer.com