Book Review: T-Minus AI by Michael Kanaan

Title: T-Minus AI

Author: Michael Kanaan

Blurb: Late in 2017, the conversation about the global impact of artificial intelligence (AI) changed forever. China delivered a bold message when it released a national plan to dominate all aspects of AI across the planet. Within weeks, Russia’s Vladimir Putin raised the stakes by declaring AI the future for all humankind, and proclaiming that, “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”

The race was on. Consistent with their unique national agendas, countries throughout the world began plotting their paths and hurrying their pace. Now, not long after, the race has become a sprint.

Despite everything at risk, for most of us AI remains shrouded by a cloud of mystery and misunderstanding. Hidden behind complex technical terms and confused even further by extravagant depictions in science fiction, the realities of AI and its profound implications are hard to decipher, but no less crucial to understand.

In T-Minus AI: Humanity’s Countdown to Artificial Intelligence and the New Pursuit of Global Power, author Michael Kanaan explains the realities of AI from a human-oriented perspective that’s easy to comprehend. A recognized national expert and the U.S. Air Force’s first Chairperson for Artificial Intelligence, Kanaan weaves a compelling new view on our history of innovation and technology to masterfully explain what each of us should know about modern computing, AI, and machine learning.

My Thoughts

Continuing my trend of reading science nonfiction, I snagged a copy of T-Minus AI in order to learn a bit more about the real-world realities of emerging artificial intelligence technologies as opposed to their fictional counterparts. While I had a vague idea of how AI had progressed over the past few decades, I wanted to gain a more in-depth understanding about how AI actually works and the current near-future implications of AI deployment in everyday life.

This books starts out by exploring the history of AI, focusing intently on the crucial steps taken throughout the twentieth century to develop AI into something that could have everyday applications. Then it summarizes the different types of AI and the various impacts that each one could have on individuals and governments—and the interplay between those two parties. The book then takes the time to explain how each of the various world superpowers has approached AI in the recent past and how they intend to approach it in the near future, as well as how those approaches have and will continue to effect global political relations and the socioeconomic welfare of those countries’ citizens.

Overall, I thought that T-Minus AI presented a thorough and well-organized look into the history, present, and likely future of AI technologies and convincingly impressed upon the reader the importance of being cognizant of how AI is and will come to be used in daily life. That said, I did have a few quibbles with the book, the biggest one being that I thought it occasionally went off on somewhat unnecessary tangents—the most obvious example being a lengthy history of the development of democracy that I don’t believe the average reads needs to understand the context of that chapter’s topic.

Anyway, this is a pretty good book if you have an interest in learning about the broad strokes of AI—historically, technically, and politically—and it does a good job of explaining all the issues (and solutions) that may arise as AI use becomes more and more common across the globe.

Rating: 3.5/5

Thanks to NetGalley and BenBella Books for providing me with an eARC of T-Minus AI.