The field of artificial intelligence has never been the subject of more attention and analysis than it is today. Almost every week, it seems, a new bestselling book comes out examining the technology, business or ethics of AI.
Yet few of the topics and debates at the center of today’s AI discourse are new. While not always recognized by commentators, artificial intelligence as a serious academic discipline dates back to the 1950s. For well over half a century, many of the world’s leading minds have devoted themselves to the pursuit of machine intelligence and have grappled with what it would mean to succeed in that pursuit.
Much of the public discourse around AI in 2019 has been anticipated—and influenced—by AI thought leaders going back decades.
Below is a selection of seven classic books about intelligence: what it is, how we might build machines that have it, and what that would mean for society. These books have played a formative role in the development of the field of AI; their influence continues to be felt today. For anyone seeking a deep understanding of AI’s complexities, challenges, and possibilities, they are essential reading.
- Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (Douglas Hofstadter, 1979)
- The Singularity is Near (Ray Kurzweil, 2005)
- Alan Turing: The Enigma (Andrew Hodges, 1983)
- Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (Antonio Damasio, 1994)
- On Intelligence (Jeff Dawkins, 2004)
- The Society of Mind (Marvin Minsky, 1986)
- The Mind’s I (Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett, 1981)