Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Ethan Mollick’s 'CO-INTELLIGENCE' - a review

Just finished Ethan Mollick’s CO-INTELLIGENCE book. I like Ethan, as he shares stuff. His X feed is excellent, so was eager to give this a go.

It wasn’t what I expected, but that’s fine, because it’s pretty good. Ethan’s a Stanford academic, so I thought it would be a research-rich book with lots of examples but it is actually aimed at the basic, general reader, who knows little or nothing about AI; big font, big line spacing and no index but it does have some good, useful research.

It opens with his Three Nights Without Sleep revelation, that this shit is amazing! Why? Because it is a ‘General Purpose Technology’ pregnant with possibilities. I liked this. He writes well and is enthusiastic about its potential.


That sense of wonder continues over PART I, with his musings on the Scary? Smart? Scary-smart? Nature of GenAI, seeing it as a sort of alien mind. Alignment he thinks is necessary but is not a doomster and avoids the sort of speculative sci-fi stuff that often appears whenever AI and ethics is mentioned. He ends this section with his Four Rules for Co-Intelligence:

Always invite AI to the table – like this

Be the human in the loop – OK but…

Treat AI like a person (but tell it what kind of person it is) – like this

Assume this is the worst AI you will ever use – yip!


This is the bulk of the book, with five chapters, where he sees AI as a:






I have lots of quibbles but that’s fine. These are good, short readable discussions that open doors on its applications and potential. Each was well worth the read. I won’t go into detail, as I’d be in danger of providing one of those summaries that stops people buying the book!

It rounds off with a Chapter on AI as our future with four Scenarios; As Good As It Gets, Slow Growth, Exponential Growth or The Machine God. Then a short Epilogue, completed using ChatGPT – AI is US.

My own view is that the premise ‘CO-INTELLIGENCE’ is too simplistic and that it will do lots of things that will surprise us beyond the idea of just augmentation, a tool to enhance human creativity, decision-making, and productivity.

The problem with any book on AI, is that it is out of date before it is even printed. There were many points when I was thinking Yes… but… This is normal. The AI mindset demands fluidity and a recognition of the point Ethan makes in PART I – Assume this is the worst you will ever use.

Good introductory text – well worth a buy – but not for those who are looking for detail and depth of expertise.


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