The Big Nine Book Summary - The Big Nine Book explained in key points
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The Big Nine summary

Amy Webb

How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity

4.4 (131 ratings)
24 mins

Brief summary

The Big Nine by Amy Webb is a thought-provoking book that discusses the future of AI and its impact on society. It highlights the dominance of nine companies in the AI industry and urges for regulation to avoid a dystopian future.

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    The Big Nine
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    AI has been revolutionized by the development of deep neural networks.

    Since the turn of the twenty-first century, AI has made remarkable progress. The key to this progress has been the development of deep neural networks or DNNs.

    The precise mechanics of how these work are rather complicated, but the basic idea behind them is fairly simple. Somewhat similar to the human brain, a DNN consists of thousands of simulated neurons linked together and arranged into hundreds of complex layers. By sending and receiving signals to and from each other, these layers of neurons are able to do something called deep learning. That means they can teach themselves how to do things with little or no human supervision; they don’t have to be taught by their human creators, like computer programs of yore.

    By harnessing the deep-learning power of DNNs, AI was able to defeat one of its longest-standing adversaries: the ancient Chinese board game of Go. Played with white and black stones on an open grid, this strategy game is even more complex than chess, despite its simple appearance. For instance, whereas chess has only 20 possible opening moves, Go has 361. And by just the second round of play, the possibilities balloon all the way up to 128,960!

    Because of the game’s complexity, an AI Go program needs to be able to engage in very creative, responsive and on-the-fly strategic thinking to win a game against a skilled human opponent. For decades, such a victory was one of the primary benchmarks against which the power of AI was measured. And from the 1970s all the way through the early 2000s, AI failed to meet the mark, losing even to novices and children. The game was just too complex for it.

    But then along came a start-up called DeepMind that specialized in deep learning and was acquired by Google in 2014. In that same year, the team from DeepMind deployed a DNN-powered program called AlphaGo against a professional Go player, Fan Hui. It beat him five games to zero. It then went on to play in tournaments, where it trounced every human opponent it encountered – including the reigning world champion!

    The benchmark of winning at Go had finally been reached, and the incredible deep-learning powers of DNNs had been dramatically demonstrated. But as you’ll find out in the next blink, AlphaGo was just a taste of things to come.

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    What is The Big Nine about?

    The Big Nine (2019) provides a sobering look at the past, present and future of artificial intelligence, both as a field and a form of technology. After recounting some of the most recent and startling developments, the author goes on to identify the key factors and individuals currently shaping it, the directions in which it appears to be heading and the troubling impacts it could have on the future of humanity. She also suggests some intriguing ways in which those impacts could be avoided.

    The Big Nine Review

    The Big Nine (2019) by Amy Webb is an insightful exploration of the future of artificial intelligence (AI) and its impact on society. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With meticulous research and analysis, Webb dives deep into the monopolization of AI, shedding light on the increasing power and influence of a few tech giants.
    • The book offers a balanced perspective, discussing both the benefits and risks of AI, and highlighting the potential consequences of its unchecked development.
    • Webb's engaging storytelling keeps readers engrossed, making the complex concepts accessible and intriguing, ensuring the book is definitely not boring.

    Who should read The Big Nine?

    • Fans of sci-fi movies and TV shows like Westworld, Black Mirror and The Matrix
    • Citizens concerned about the societal ramifications of digital technology
    • Tech mavens wanting to keep abreast of AI research and development

    About the Author

    Amy Webb is a professor of strategic foresight at New York University’s Stern School of Business and the founder of the Future Today Institute, which conducts research on emerging technologies. As part of that research, she and her team have developed a data-driven method of forecasting the future, which she laid out in her Washington Post best-seller, The Signals Are Talking: Why Today’s Fringe Is Tomorrow’s Mainstream. 

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    The Big Nine FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Big Nine?

    The power and perils of AI, the role of Big Tech, and the need for ethical decision-making in shaping our future.

    How long does it take to read The Big Nine?

    Reading time for The Big Nine varies, but you can read the Blinkist summary in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Big Nine a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Big Nine is definitely worth reading. It provides eye-opening insights on AI and its impact on society.

    Who is the author of The Big Nine?

    Amy Webb is the author of The Big Nine.

    What to read after The Big Nine?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Big Nine, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • 13 Things Mentally Strong Couples Don't Do by Amy Morin
    • Deep Work by Cal Newport
    • AI for Business Leaders by Michael Ramsay
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    • The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer