Book Bits: 29 June 2024

● The Singularity Is Nearer: When We Merge with AI
Ray Kurzweil
Review via The New York Times
In “The Singularity Is Nearer,” Kurzweil promises that, by 2029, A.I. will be “better than all humans” in “every skill possessed by any human.” During the 2030s, solar power, enhanced by A.I.-driven advances in 3-D printing, will come to dominate the global energy supply, most consumer goods will be free, and the “dramatic reduction of physical scarcity” will “finally allow us to easily provide for the needs of everyone.” Sounds rad!
Enter the blood robots. Have no doubt: “The long-term goal is nanorobots.” One day next decade, Kurzweil believes, you and I will feed nanobots through our capillaries. The little busybodies will swim to our brains, where they will connect our neocortex to the cloud, allowing us to expand our intelligence “millions-fold.” This is “the Singularity.”

The Great Decline: From the Era of Hope and Progress to the Age of Fear and Rage
John Bone
Summary via publisher (Bristol Press)
It seems clear that many formerly stable societies in wealthy developed countries appear to be falling into an apparent state of ‘permacrisis’ accompanied by an increasingly angry and irrational social and political culture that is undermining the peace and stability of our societies and democratic institutions, from the local to the global. Applying an original biosocial approach (the social map), and drawing on ideas and evidence from sociology, history and political economy, to psychology, neuroscience and epigenetics, John Bone argues that conditions in our turbocapitalist and increasingly estranged, media dominated societies have created a toxic environment, deeply damaging to our mental and physical health. As well as shedding new light on our current troubles, Bone also outlines why this leaves us ill prepared to deal with two of the greatest challenges confronting humanity: the rise of AI and automation and how we deal with climate change.

The Puzzle of Sustainable Investment: What Smart Investors Should Know
Lukasz Pomorski
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
In The Puzzle of Sustainable Investment: What Smart Investors Should Know, veteran Environmental-Social-Governance (ESG) investor and educator Lukasz Pomorski delivers a balanced, informed, and insightful new take on sustainable investing. The author takes you through every relevant aspect of the frameworks, design choices, and data that sustainable investors use to build successful portfolios, as well as how sustainability choices might affect a financial portfolio, including cases where sustainability objectives are at odds with financial returns. You’ll also learn how sustainable investing and the financial portfolios it leads to may affect the broader economy. The book addresses many of the misconceptions and misperceptions coloring the debate around sustainable investing and driving the divergence of views about how sustainability affects investment returns and real-world outcomes.

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