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Our Final Invention

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Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era
First edition
AuthorJames Barrat
PublisherThomas Dunne Books
Publication date
October 1, 2013
Publication placeUnited States
Media typePrint (hardback)

Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era is a 2013 non-fiction book by the American author James Barrat. The book discusses the potential benefits and possible risks of human-level (AGI) or super-human (ASI) artificial intelligence.[1] Those supposed risks include extermination of the human race.[2]


James Barrat weaves together explanations of AI concepts, AI history, and interviews with prominent AI researchers including Eliezer Yudkowsky and Ray Kurzweil. The book starts with an account of how an artificial general intelligence could become an artificial super-intelligence through recursive self-improvement. In subsequent chapters, the book covers the history of AI, including an account of the work done by I. J. Good, up to the work and ideas of researchers in the field today.

Throughout the book, Barrat takes a cautionary tone, focusing on the threats artificial super-intelligence poses to human existence. Barrat emphasizes how difficult it would be to control or even to predict the actions of something that may become orders of magnitude more intelligent than the most intelligent humans.


On 13 December 2013, journalist Matt Miller interviewed Barrat for his podcast, "This... is interesting". The interview and related matters to Barrat's book, Our Final Invention, were then captured in Miller's weekly opinion piece for The Washington Post.[3]

Seth Baum, executive director of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute and one of the people cited by Barrat in his book, reviewed the book favorably on Scientific American's "invited guest" blog, calling it a welcome counterpoint to the vision articulated by Ray Kurzweil in his book The Singularity is Near.[4]

Gary Marcus questions Barrat's argument "that tendencies toward self-preservation and resource acquisition are inherent in any sufficiently complex, goal-driven system", noting that present-day AI does not have such drives, but Marcus concedes "that the goals of machines could change as they get smarter", and he feels that "Barrat is right to ask" about these important issues.[5]

Our Final Invention was a Huffington Post Definitive Tech Book of 2013.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Barrat, James. "Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era (Book Review)". New York Journal of Books. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
  2. ^ Scoblete, Greg. "Our Final Invention: How the Human Race Goes and Gets Itself Killed" Archived 2019-02-03 at the Wayback Machine, Real Clear Technology (December 6, 2013).
  3. ^ Artificial intelligence: Our final invention?, Matt Miller, Washington Post opinion
  4. ^ Baum, Seth (October 11, 2013). "Our Final Invention: Is AI the Defining Issue for Humanity?". Scientific American. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
  5. ^ Marcus, Gary (24 Oct 2013). "Why We Should Think About the Threat of Artificial Intelligence". New Yorker. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  6. ^ "'The Definitive Tech Books Of 2013". HuffPost. December 23, 2013. Retrieved June 11, 2014.

External links[edit]