Human Compatible Book Summary - Human Compatible Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro

Human Compatible summary

Stuart Russell

Artificial Intelligence and the Problem of Control

4.4 (651 ratings)
22 mins

Brief summary

Human Compatible by Stuart Russell is a thought-provoking read on the future of artificial intelligence. It delves into the risks that AI poses to our civilization, and proposes solutions for ensuring a safe and desirable outcome.

Table of Contents

    Human Compatible
    Summary of 6 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 6

    We need several breakthroughs in software before AI surpasses human intelligence.

    Today’s computers can process information at astounding speeds. But even as early as the 1950s, computers were being touted as super-brains that are “faster than Einstein.”

    Of course, computers back then had nothing on the human brain. But we still compared the two. In fact, from the very beginning of computer science, we’ve tended to measure computational intelligence – and progress – against human intelligence.

    So, what about today’s computers? Some of them, surely, can give us a run for our money?

    The key message here is: We need several breakthroughs in software before AI surpasses human intelligence.

    The fastest computer in the world today is the Summit Machine, housed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US. Compared to the world’s first commercial computer, the Ferranti Mark 1, the Summit Machine is 1,000 trillion times faster and has 250 trillion times more memory. That’s a lot of zeros.

    In terms of raw computing power, the Summit Machine actually slightly exceeds the human brain, although it requires a warehouse full of hardware and a million times more energy.

    Still, it’s impressive. But can we say that today’s supercomputers – the Summit Machine included – are as powerful as the human brain? The answer is decidedly no.

    Sure, these computers have impressive hardware, which allows their algorithms to operate faster and process more information. But there’s far more to intelligence than just processing speed.

    The real problem in designing intelligence is in the software. As of now, we still need several major conceptual breakthroughs in AI software before we witness anything resembling human-level artificial intelligence.

    The most important breakthrough we need is in the comprehension of language. Most of today’s intelligent speech recognition AI are based on canned responses and have trouble interpreting nuances in meaning. That’s why you get stories of smartphone personal assistants responding to the request ‘call me an ambulance’ with ‘ok, from now on, I’ll call you Ann Ambulance.’ Genuinely intelligent AI will need to interpret meaning based not just on the words said but on their context and tone as well.

    We can never really say when conceptual breakthroughs will take place. But one thing’s for sure we shouldn’t underestimate human ingenuity.

    Consider the following example. In 1933, the distinguished nuclear physicist Ernest Rutherford announced at a formal address that harnessing nuclear energy was impossible. The very next day, the Hungarian physicist Leó Szilárd outlined the neutron-induced nuclear chain reaction, essentially solving the problem.

    We don’t yet know whether superintelligence – intelligence beyond human abilities – will emerge soon, later or not at all. But it’s still prudent to take precautions, just as it was when designing nuclear technology.

    Want to see all full key ideas from Human Compatible?

    Key ideas in Human Compatible

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is Human Compatible about?

    Human Compatible (2019) explains why the creation of a superintelligent artificial intelligence could be humanity’s final act. The blinks call to attention the potential catastrophe that humanity is heading towards, and discuss what needs to be done to avoid it. If we’re to ensure AI remains beneficial to humans in the long run, we may need to radically rethink its design.

    Human Compatible Review

    Human Compatible (2019) explores the ethical challenges posed by the rise of artificial intelligence and offers a roadmap for ensuring its safe and beneficial integration into society. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It provides a comprehensive analysis of the risks and benefits of AI, giving readers a clear understanding of the potential consequences.
    • Backed by scientific research and expert insights, the book offers practical solutions, guiding readers toward a future where AI serves human values.
    • With its engaging examples and thought-provoking scenarios, it brings the complex topic of AI ethics to life, ensuring the book is anything but boring.

    Best quote from Human Compatible

    Autonomous weapons will greatly reduce human security at all levels: personal, local, national, and international.

    —Stuart Russell
    example alt text

    Who should read Human Compatible?

    • AI specialists who could benefit from a new approach to AI design
    • Students of AI looking for an overview of its key problems
    • Anyone concerned about how AI is likely to transform society in the near future

    About the Author

    Stuart Russell is a professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley. A leading AI researcher, Russell has served as vice-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Council on AI and Robotics and as an advisor to the UN regarding arms control. He’s also coauthor of the definitive and universally acclaimed textbook on AI Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach (1994) which is the number one best-selling textbook on AI and is used in over 1,400 universities in 128 countries around the world.

    Categories with Human Compatible

    Book summaries like Human Compatible

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked these summaries

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    32 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,500+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial

    Human Compatible FAQs 

    What is the main message of Human Compatible?

    Human Compatible explores the risks and challenges of artificial intelligence and emphasizes the importance of aligning AI with human values.

    How long does it take to read Human Compatible?

    The estimated reading time for Human Compatible is several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Human Compatible a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Human Compatible is a thought-provoking and informative book that offers valuable insights into the future of AI. It is definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of Human Compatible?

    Stuart Russell is the author of Human Compatible.

    What to read after Human Compatible?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Human Compatible, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark
    • Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes & Erik M. Conway
    • Understanding Artificial Intelligence by Nicolas Sabouret
    • Architects of Intelligence by Martin Ford
    • The Big Picture by Sean Carroll
    • I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was by Barbara Sher with Barbara Smith
    • The AI Economy by Roger Bootle
    • Zero to One by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters
    • All-in On AI by Tom Davenport & Nitin Mittal
    • What To Do When Machines Do Everything by Malcolm Frank