With so much written on the subject, Cade Metz’s 'Genius Makers' is among the most enjoyable primers, introducing the faces behind the development of a technology encroaching on just about every aspect of our individual and collective lives. No need to have a scientific background to read Metz’s jargon-free, hugely entertaining, and informative book. Metz, a technology reporter for the New York Times, is an engaging writer and storyteller :
“By the time he stepped onto the bus in downtown Toronto, bound for Lake Tahoe, Geoff Hinton hadn’t sat down for seven years,” is his book’s opening sentence. Going back to AI’s early days, he is at his best when describing a decade-long rivalry still resonating today between the ‘symbolists ’ and the ‘connectionists,’ two opposing camps of AI researchers.
He does an equally fine job of vividly rendering the characters and personalities of today’s AI elite researchers—spoiler: a battle of oversized egos—or describing the intense competition and enormous sums offered by companies trying to poach them—“borderline crazy money,” as one of his characters puts it—and provide them with massive amounts of expensive supercomputing power to achieve their grand and often controversial visions.
Genius Makers: The Mavericks Who Brought AI to Google, Facebook and the World, by Cade Metz, Random House Business, RRP£20, 384 pages. (2021).