The Age of Em

The Age of Em : Work, Love, and Life when Robots Rule the Earth

3.41 (480 ratings by Goodreads)
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Robots may one day rule the world, but what is a robot-ruled Earth like?

Many think the first truly smart robots will be brain emulations or ems. Scan a human brain, then run a model with the same connections on a fast computer, and you have a robot brain, but recognizably human.

Train an em to do some job and copy it a million times: an army of workers is at your disposal. When they can be made cheaply, within perhaps a century, ems will displace humans in most jobs. In this new economic era, the world economy may double in size every few weeks.

Some say we can't know the future, especially following such a disruptive new technology, but Professor Robin Hanson sets out to prove them wrong. Applying decades of expertise in physics, computer science, and economics, he uses standard theories to paint a detailed picture of a world dominated by ems.

While human lives don't change greatly in the em era, em lives are as different from ours as our lives are from those of our farmer and forager ancestors. Ems make us question common assumptions of moral progress, because they reject many of the values we hold dear.

Read about em mind speeds, body sizes, job training and career paths, energy use and cooling infrastructure, virtual reality, aging and retirement, death and immortality, security, wealth inequality, religion, teleportation, identity, cities, politics, law, war, status, friendship and love.

This book shows you just how strange your descendants may be, though ems are no stranger than we would appear to our ancestors. To most ems, it seems good to be an em.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 528 pages
  • 130 x 196 x 39mm | 488g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0198817827
  • 9780198817826
  • 346,964

Table of contents

1: Start
2: Modes
3: Framing
4: Assumptions
5: Implementation
6: Scales
7: Infrastructure
8: Appearances
9: Information
10: Existence
11: Farewells
12: Labor
13: Efficiency
14: Work
15: Business
16: Growth
17: Lifecycle
18: Clumping
19: Groups
20: Conflict
21: Politics
22: Rules
23: Mating
24: Signals
25: Collaboration
26: Society
27: Minds
28: Variations
29: Choices
30: Finale
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Review Text

Hanson's predictions detail a world both uncanny and eerily familiar. Mary Craig, Nature
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Review quote

Hanson's predictions detail a world both uncanny and eerily familiar. * Mary Craig, Nature * Plenty of futurists and science fiction writers have toyed with the idea that the brains of particular humans could one day be scanned and uploaded into artificial hardware but Prof Hanson's take is different. His aim is to use standard theories from the physical, human and social sciences to make forecasts about how this technological breakthrough would really change our world * Sarah O' Connor, Financial Times * What is remarkable ... is not just the detail ... but the way he situates it within a perceptive analysis of our human past and present * Daniel J. Levitin, Wall Street Journal Europe * What happens when a first-rate economist applies his rigor, breadth, and curiosity to the sci-fi topic of whole brain emulations? This book is what happens. There's nothing else like it, and it will blow your (current) mind. * Andrew McAfee, Professor of Business, Massachusetts Institute of Technology * Robin Hanson brings intelligence, imagination, and courage to some of the most profound questions humanity will be dealing with in the middle-term future. The Age of Em is a stimulating and unique book that will be valuable to anyone who wants to look past the next ten years to the next hundred and the next thousand. * Sean Carroll, Professor of Physics, California Institute of Technology, author The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself * A highly provocative vision of a technologically advanced future that may or may not come true - but if it does, we'll be glad Robin wrote this book now. * Marc Andreessen, cofounder Netscape, Andreessen Horowitz *
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About Robin Hanson

Robin Hanson is an associate professor of economics at George Mason University, and a research associate at the Future of Humanity Institute of Oxford University. Professor Hanson has master's degrees in physics and philosophy from the University of Chicago, nine years experience in artificial intelligence research at Lockheed and N.A.S.A., a doctorate in social science from California Institute of Technology, 2800 citations, and sixty academic publications, in
economics, physics, computer science, philosophy, and more. He blogs at, and has pioneered the field of prediction markets since 1988.
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Rating details

480 ratings
3.41 out of 5 stars
5 21% (101)
4 30% (143)
3 26% (127)
2 15% (72)
1 8% (37)
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