Is the Algorithm Plotting Against Us? A Layperson’s Guide to the Concepts, Math, and Pitfalls of AI

Author: Wenger, Kenneth

Publication Date:

May 2023



Original language and publisher

English (USA) | Working Fires Foundation

Territories Handled

World excl. English

Territories Sold

Poland (Helion)


Science, Technology

Is the Algorithm Plotting Against Us? A Layperson’s Guide to the Concepts, Math, and Pitfalls of AI

Author: Wenger, Kenneth


“Mr. Wenger has written an extremely easy-to-read book that not only stimulates your curiosity about AI, machine learning, and deep learning but also offers satisfying answers to many questions. He provides a fascinating hitchhiker’s guide to the AI galaxy and, along the way, serves up great and nutritious food for thought.” —Dr. Alireza Sadeghian, Founding Director, Advanced Artificial Intelligence Lab

“At a crucial moment, this book expands the conversation around AI to the broader public. It introduces critical concepts in an easy-to-read format with examples, diagrams, and plots. Through real-life tasks and publicly available data, algorithms (e.g., convolutional neural networks) are explained to help the reader understand the ‘black box’ that is AI.” —Dr. Saumil Patel, Computational Scientist, Computational Science Division at Argonne National Lab

“An absorbing book that makes you think about thinking artificially. As the world becomes more and more impacted by AI, this book is essential reading and for some will be a survival guide for the future.” —Damian Fozard, founder of Squint AI and co-inventor of Safe AI

“Kenneth Wenger was a great guest and his book is the most accessible overview of AI I’ve read, particularly the section on how neural nets work. We condensed 200 pages into 30 minutes.”

Dan called the book “excellent” and said, “Ken’s a great writer and a deep thinker.” —Dan Turchin, host of AI and the Future of Work podcast, CEO of PeopleReign

Artificial intelligence is all around us. Embedded in Alexa devices and Google Home products, it operates in our houses. It enhances our phones and our cars. AI makes decisions about what shows we should watch, what articles we should read, and what items we should buy. Before long, it will be combing through our medical history and making decisions about our health care. In some parts of the world, AI is being employed in court systems and in law enforcement.

Though AI is everywhere, most of us don’t understand it. We hardly know what it is, let alone how it affects us. As a result, fears of self-aware machines taking over the world obscure more pressing concerns we should address about the role AI already has in our lives. In Is the Algorithm Plotting Against Us?, AI expert Kenneth Wenger deftly explains the complexity at the heart of artificial intelligence. He celebrates the elegance and ingenuity of AI algorithms—and you don’t need a computer science degree to follow along.

No mere intellectual exercise, though, Wenger exposes AI’s underpinnings so we may appreciate both its sophistication and shortfalls. The growing use of AI warrants all of us to consider certain questions and assume certain responsibilities. What does an AI-driven future look like? Will self-driving cars ever surpass human performance? Should AI be allowed in courthouses? What are the implications of AI’s application in advertising?

Wenger proposes a test to determine for which human-related problems AI could serve as a solution and when it is likely not the right answer. But more importantly, he empowers readers to answer these questions for themselves, an essential step we all must take at a time when AI’s hold on tech, society, and our imagination is only getting stronger.

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