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The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life when Robots Rule the Earth

The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life when Robots Rule the Earth

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by Robin Hanson

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Robots may one day rule the world, but what is a robot-ruled Earth like?

Many think the first truly smart robots will be brain emulations or "ems." Scan a human brain, then run a model with the same connections on a fast computer, and you have a robot brain, but recognizably human.

Train an em to do some job and copy it a million times: an army of


Robots may one day rule the world, but what is a robot-ruled Earth like?

Many think the first truly smart robots will be brain emulations or "ems." Scan a human brain, then run a model with the same connections on a fast computer, and you have a robot brain, but recognizably human.

Train an em to do some job and copy it a million times: an army of workers is at your disposal. When they can be made cheaply, within perhaps a century, ems will displace humans in most jobs. In this new economic era, the world economy may double in size every few weeks.

Some say we can't know the future, especially following such a disruptive new technology, but Professor Robin Hanson sets out to prove them wrong. Applying decades of expertise in physics, computer science, and economics, he uses standard theories to paint a detailed picture of a world dominated by ems.

While human lives don't change greatly in the em era, em lives are as different from ours as our lives are from those of our farmer and forager ancestors. Ems make us question common assumptions of moral progress, because they reject many of the values we hold dear.

Read about em mind speeds, body sizes, job training and career paths, energy use and cooling infrastructure, virtual reality, aging and retirement, death and immortality, security, wealth inequality, religion, teleportation, identity, cities, politics, law, war, status, friendship and love.

This book shows you just how strange your descendants may be, though ems are no stranger than we would appear to our ancestors. To most ems, it seems good to be an em.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Robin Hanson brings intelligence, imagination, and courage to some of the most profound questions humanity will be dealing with in the middle-term future. The Age of Em is a stimulating and unique book that will be valuable to anyone who wants to look past the next ten years to the next hundred and the next thousand." --Sean Carroll, Professor of Physics, California Institute of Technology, author The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself

"What happens when a first-rate economist applies his rigor, breadth, and curiosity to the sci-fi topic of whole brain emulations? This book is what happens. There's nothing else like it, and it will blow your (current) mind." --Andrew McAfee, Professor of Business, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"A highly provocative vision of a technologically advanced future that may or may not come true--but if it does, we'll be glad Robin wrote this book now." --Marc Andreessen, cofounder Netscape, Andreessen Horowitz

"In this brilliant analysis, Robin Hanson shows that our hyper-smart "downloaded"--or emulated--heirs will still have ambitions, triumphs and thwarted desires. They'll make alliances, compete, cooperate ... and very-likely love ... all driven by immutable laws of nature and economics. Super intelligence may be a lot more like us than you imagined." -David Brin, two times Hugo award winner

"Robin Hanson provides a richly detailed portrait of a future society where brain emulation is widespread. Drawing on physics, economics, sociology, history, and a host of other disciplines, he describes a world that is wonderfully strange and yet strikingly familiar. Far out? Yes. Fascinating? That too." --Hal Varian, chief economist Google, Emeritus Professor of Economics, U.C. Berkeley

"A fascinating thought experiment about the future, written with clarity and verve by somebody who thinks very deeply and freely." --Matt Ridley, columnist The Times

"Robin Hanson has a remarkable mind and has written a remarkable book. Whether you agree or disagree with each of his specific predictions, each page will entice you to think more deeply." --Erik Brynjolfsson, coauthor The Second Machine Age

"There are different paths to the Technological Singularity. In The Age of Em Robin Hanson explores one such possibility. With this book, Hanson owns the Em scenario." --Vernor Vinge, five times Hugo award winner

"Robin Hanson is a thinker like no other on this planet: someone so unconstrained by convention, so unflinching in spelling out the consequences of ideas, that even the most cosmopolitan reader is likely to find him as bracing (and head-clearing) as a mouthful of wasabi." --Scott Aaronson, author Quantum Computing since Democritus

"Robin Hanson's new tour de force will dazzle and delight you. Anyone who loves books should read The Age of Em." --Tyler Cowen, columnist New York Times

"The Age of Em combines Hanson's expertise in social science and artificial intelligence to paint a stunning vision of the future of intelligent life. The result is a noble effort to subordinate science fiction to science." --Bryan Caplan, author The Myth of the Rational Voter

"Robin Hanson integrates ferocious future forces: robotics, artificial intelligence, overpopulation, economic stagnation--and comes up with a detailed, striking set of futures we can have, if we think harder." --Gregory Benford, two times Nebula award winner

"Robin Hanson is one of the most original thinkers in the world--and this fascinating account of our future society is like nothing you'll read anywhere else. Astonishing stuff." --Tim Harford, columnist Financial Times

"Hanson is pioneering a new style of science fiction: using calculations rather than mere stories to imagine what a world of artificial humans would be like." --Kevin Kelly, author The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future

"The Age of Em is a rare wonder: a book both fully intellectually rigorous, and boldly embracing of the radical possibilities the future holds. Far more clearly than from any work of mere science fiction, one gleans from Hanson's book a clear idea of what a future world dominated by brain emulations or 'Ems' might actually be like." --Ben Goertzel, founder AGI Society, OpenCog Foundation

"Nobody else could have explored the implications of whole-brain emulation in such visionary yet plausible detail. It's one of the most important books you'll ever read." --Geoffrey Miller, author The Mating Mind, Spent, Mate

"Carefully reasoned, thoroughly researched, and incisively argued, this book will change the way you look at our uploaded future, and the entire concept of the Singularity." --Ramez Naam, author Nexus, The Infinite Resource

"Most futurism is remarkable chiefly for its lack of imagination. The Age of Em is that rare book that pushes the boundaries of our understanding of what is possible." --Tim O'Reilly, founder & CEO, O'Reilly Media

"Here we have a systematic attempt to envisage what could well be the next technological disruption of the human condition: a world after the 'anthropocene' which does not conform to the usual ecological scenarios." -Steve Fuller, author Humanity 2.0

"Hanson takes a few simple assumptions and relentlessly follows their implications to paint a fascinating and chillingly plausible posthuman future, realised in fractal-like detail. A tour de force of rigorous speculation that draws equally upon physics, economics and neuroscience, every page of The Age of Em brims with fascinating ideas." --Hannu Rajaniemi, author The Quantum Thief

"The best way to predict the future may be to create it, but to create it you first must study it. Read this book!" --Robert Freitas, author Nanomedicine

"Hanson puts Nostradamus to shame, foretelling humans moving from flesh and blood to abstract immortal "emulations", computer programs made of bits, our civilization uploading to gigahertz processors exchanging gigabytes 24/7." --Ralph Merkle, co-inventor public key cryptography

"Hanson honors the physics and the likely future economics of emulated minds. Students of AI, virtual reality, economics, and science can benefit in multiple ways from this extraordinary work of thoughtful and courageous technological forecasting." --Neil Jacobstein, Chair, AI and Robotics, Singularity University at NASA Research Park, Mountain View CA

Product Details

Oxford University Press
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6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.30(d)

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Meet the Author

Robin Hanson is an associate professor of economics at George Mason University, and a research associate at the Future of Humanity Institute of Oxford University. Professor Hanson has master's degrees in physics and philosophy from the University of Chicago, nine years experience in artificial intelligence research at Lockheed and NASA., a doctorate in social science from California Institute of Technology, 2800 citations, and sixty academic publications, in economics, physics, computer science, philosophy, and more. He blogs at OvercomingBias.com, and has pioneered the field of prediction markets since 1988.

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The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life when Robots Rule the Earth 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Krishna20 More than 1 year ago
Good book!