How Smart Machines Think · Book Review

How Smart Machines Think

In “How Smart Machines Think,” author Sean Gerrish offers a refreshing take on the rapidly evolving landscape of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Unlike many texts that either delve into the complexities of algorithms and data structures or present a high-level overview, Gerrish aims for a middle ground, making the subject accessible to laypeople without sacrificing depth. The result is a compelling exploration of the “thinking” processes of smart machines, framed in a way that demystifies the technology without oversimplifying it.

Gerrish takes readers on an intellectual journey through the world of AI, providing clear explanations of how technologies like self-driving cars, speech recognition, and game-playing algorithms function. He employs analogies, anecdotes, and straightforward language to explain complex topics such as neural networks and reinforcement learning. This approach effectively bridges the gap between the layperson’s understanding and the expert’s knowledge. Throughout the book, he emphasizes not just the mechanical aspects of AI, but also the trial-and-error, almost “human-like” methods these machines employ to learn and improve.

The book’s strength lies in its balanced narrative. It takes care to provide sufficient technical detail to satisfy those with some background in the subject, while ensuring that the material remains comprehensible to the uninitiated. However, there are moments where readers may find themselves wishing for a deeper dive into certain topics. While Gerrish skillfully simplifies complex concepts, there is the inevitable trade-off of sacrificing some level of detail. This might leave readers with specialized interests feeling a bit underwhelmed.

Nevertheless, “How Smart Machines Think” succeeds in its primary objective: making the field of AI and machine learning both approachable and engaging for a broad audience. For those intrigued by smart technology but intimidated by its complexities, this book offers a cogent and enlightening guide. It’s a recommended read for anyone looking to understand the mechanisms that power the smart machines increasingly impacting our daily lives, demystifying the ‘brain’ behind the machine.