In Frank Herbert's Dune books, humanity has long banned the creation of "thinking machines." Ten thousand years earlier, their ancestors destroyed all such computers in a movement called the Butlerian Jihad, because they felt the machines controlled them. Human computers called Mentats serve as a substitute for the outlawed technology. The penalty for violating the Orange Catholic Bible's commandment "Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind" was immediate death. Should humanity sanction the creation of intelligent machines? That's the pressing issue at the heart of the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom's fascinating new book, Superintelligence. In his review, Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey concludes that Bostrom makes a strong case that working to ensure the survival of humanity after the coming intelligence explosion is "the essential task of our age."
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