AI is rapidly changing the way we live and do business, which leaves many business leaders feeling like they’re struggling to keep pace with developments. As such, business leaders often ask me for tips on recommend reading – they want to know which books will help them understand the AI revolution, grasp its impact on our world and plan for an AI-driven future.
I read a lot about AI, for my consulting work, and more recently as research for my latest book ‘Artificial Intelligence in practice’ and, of course, because I find the subject absolutely fascinating. In fact, I’d say I’ve devoured pretty much every key AI book that’s been published in the last decade.
My plan for this article was to nominate the single best book on AI – as in, if you could only read one, which book should it be? But, honestly, it was just too difficult to narrow down my favourites to one book!
Instead, I offer you my top five. In my view, these are the very best AI books that are available right now. All focus on the implications of AI for business and society (as opposed to the nitty-gritty tech side of AI). So if you're interested in the potential impact of AI, or how AI is going to transform every aspect of our world, I highly recommend these five books.
The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity
By Byron Reese, published May 2018
This fascinating book argues that AI will have enormous implications for the human race, to the extent that it will redefine what it means to be human. As background, Reese sets out the previous three ages where technology has reshaped humanity and sets up AI and robotics as the fourth age of transformation. In other words, it’s a gripping (and surprisingly optimistic) account of how we got where we are today, and how we should approach the new age that’s upon us.
Best for: Understanding what AI will mean for us as a species, without getting sucked into a doom-and-gloom dystopian fantasy.
Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
By Max Tegmark, published July 2018
One of Barack Obama's favourite books of 2018 and named Book of the Year by both The Times and The Daily Telegraph, this highly praised book more than lives up to the hype.
In it, Tegmark, who is a physicist and cosmologist, sets out to separate AI myths from reality in an approachable and lively way. Impressively, he manages to cover some quite challenging topics and questions (How can we create a more prosperous world through automation? How can we protect AI systems from hacking and nefarious use?) without being too high-brow or dumbing down – and without telling the reader what to think.
Best for: Facilitating challenging, thought-provoking conversations about AI, whether you want to impress folks around the water cooler or instigate serious AI strategy discussions.
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
By Yuval Noah Harari, published March 2017
Following on from his smash hit Sapiens, which explored how the human race evolved, Harari peeks into the not-too-distant future to see what’s in store for the human race. Artificial life is just one part of this envisioned world, and Harari explores a range of other challenges, including immortality. If you enjoyed Sapiens (I mean, who didn’t?), this follow-up is a must-read.
Best for: Combining hard science with stimulating philosophical questions around human identity. Definitely one to make you feel smarter!
AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley And The New World Order
By Kai-Fu Lee, published January 2019
In one of the most recent books I’ve read (at the time of writing this article), Lee argues that, thanks to China’s astonishing growth in this area, it now rivals the US in AI technology. For both of these superpowers, and indeed the rest of the world, this means dramatic business and societal changes will hit us sooner than anyone could imagine.
If global politics really isn’t your thing, don’t be put off. Lee paints a very readable picture of what this increasing AI competition will mean for real people’s jobs.
Best for: Understanding which jobs (both blue collar and white collar) are most likely to be affected by AI, and which jobs can be enhanced with AI.
Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI
By Paul Daugherty and H. James Wilson, published March 2018
Daugherty and Wilson are Accenture’s Chief Technology and Innovation Officer and Managing Director of IT and Business Research, giving this book a laser-like focus on the business implications of AI – or, more specifically, how companies are using AI to innovate and grow.
Key to this book is the idea that no business process will be left untouched by AI. Across all areas of business, humans and intelligent machines are working more closely together and changing how companies operate. Indeed, the authors set out six hybrid ‘human + machine’ roles that they believe every business must put in place.
Best for: Providing a practical blueprint for business leaders who want to capitalise on the AI revolution.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my recommended reading list and, as always, I would love to hear your views. Let me know what you think about the books and which other ones you would add to this list.
Bernard Marr is an internationally bestselling author, futurist, keynote speaker, and strategic advisor to companies and governments. He advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations on strategy, digital transformation and business performance. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK. He has authored 16 best-selling books, is a frequent contributor to the World Economic Forum and writes a regular column for Forbes. Every day Bernard actively engages his almost 2 million social media followers and shares content that reaches millions of readers.