1st Edition

The Shortcut Why Intelligent Machines Do Not Think Like Us

By Nello Cristianini Copyright 2023
    186 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by CRC Press

    186 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by CRC Press

    An influential scientist in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) explains its fundamental concepts and how it is changing culture and society.

    A particular form of AI is now embedded in our tech, our infrastructure, and our lives. How did it get there? Where and why should we be concerned? And what should we do now? The Shortcut: Why Intelligent Machines Do Not Think Like Us provides an accessible yet probing exposure of AI in its prevalent form today, proposing a new narrative to connect and make sense of events that have happened in the recent tumultuous past, and enabling us to think soberly about the road ahead.

    This book is divided into ten carefully crafted and easily digestible chapters. Each chapter grapples with an important question for AI. Ranging from the scientific concepts that underpin the technology to wider implications for society, it develops a unified description using tools from different disciplines and avoiding unnecessary abstractions or words that end with -ism. The book uses real examples wherever possible, introducing the reader to the people who have created some of these technologies and to ideas shaping modern society that originate from the technical side of AI. It contains important practical advice about how we should approach AI in the future without promoting exaggerated hypes or fears.

    Entertaining and disturbing but always thoughtful, The Shortcut confronts the hidden logic of AI while preserving a space for human dignity. It is essential reading for anyone with an interest in AI, the history of technology, and the history of ideas. General readers will come away much more informed about how AI really works today and what we should do next.

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR. PROLOGUE. 1 The Search for Intelligence. 2 The Shortcut. 3 Finding Order in the World. 4 Lady Lovelace Was Wrong. 5 Unintended Behaviour. 6 Microtargeting and Mass Persuasion. 7 The Feedback Loop. 8 The Glitch. 9 Social Machines. 10 Regulating, Not Unplugging. EPILOGUE. BIBLIOGRAPHY. INDEX.


    Nello Cristianini has been an influential researcher in the field of machine learning and AI for over 20 years. He is Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Bath, before that he has worked at the University of Bristol, the University of California (Davis), the University of London (Royal Holloway). For his work in machine learning, he has been a past recipient of the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award, and of the ERC Advanced Grant. Cristianini has been the co-author of influential books in machine learning, as well as dozens of academic articles, published in journals that range from AI to the philosophy of science, from the digital humanities to natural language processing, and from sociology to biology. In 2017, he delivered the annual STOA lecture at the European Parliament on the topic of the social impact of AI, a theme that he is still actively investigating. Cristianini has a degree in Physics from the University of Trieste, an MSc in Computational Intelligence from the University of London, and a PhD from the University of Bristol.

    "Nello Cristianini’s brilliant book accessibly explains the shortcuts computer scientists took in their search for artificial intelligence, and how the interaction between engineers, companies and consumers created our online world. The shortcuts enabled problems to be solved, but using them on a massive scale also had unintended consequences. One of the most important points of this book is that the feedback loops between humans and AIs are changing us. Another is that the form taken by AI and IT could have been different, and that regulation and scrutiny could make it more compatible with human flourishing. The book tells key stories in the history of AI and big data, and introduces many critical ideas lucidly. The Shortcut is itself an elegant shortcut to understanding."
    -- James Ladyman, Professor of Philosophy, University of Bristol, President-elect of The British Society for the Philosophy of Science

    "Nello Cristianini is a prominent AI researcher who has contributed to the field for more than twenty-five years. In this exquisitely written book, rich in anecdotes, he traces the history of AI over that time up to the latest developments. In looking to the future, he takes an unusual but revealing perspective that the present form of AI is a social machine which has effects -- intended and unintended -- on us."

    --Chris Watkins, Professor of Machine Learning, Royal Holloway, University of London

    “The writing style is wonderful. Clear, lucid and unfussy. Very readable and very accessible. The first four chapters in particular make accessible the basic difference between rule-based programming and the pattern-based approach of ML techniques. They provide a clear and engaging account of the field's development. These chapters also put forward a persuasive account of the notion of 'intelligence' and distinguish human intelligence from that of other agents - it is very well done, and convincing. The remaining chapters tackle many different applications and consequences of intelligent agents, including unintended harms, social media data harvesting, recommender systems, addiction, manipulation and polarisation, social machines and regulation.”

    --Karen Yeung, Interdisciplinary Professorial Fellow in Law, Ethics and Informatics, University of Birmingham and Birmingham Law School, UK

    "Written in a clear and engaging style, this book does not just describe how Artificial Intelligence evolved, it also confronts important questions about the nature of intelligence, our relation with technology, and how we can be affected by it. I really enjoyed being taken on the journey form my previously comfortable analogue world to today’s and tomorrow’s world of living with digital intelligence."

    --Stafford Lightman, FMedSci, FRS, Professor of Medicine, University of Bristol, UK