Book Review – Map and Territory

Earlier this year I read Rationality: From AI to Zombies(at the bottom of the page, or online here. At 1800 pages, it’s not an adventure for those afraid of thick books, but I’ve read Worm several times. I ain’t afraid of no page count!

While I could reasonably say that I’ve read the Sequences, I did so in kind of a scattershot fashion, over the course of years, and reread by hopping around among pages when I was in Colorado and between calls at work. I wanted to be sure I had in fact read everything, to refresh my memory of it, and to be able to say that I had done so with confidence.

I set myself to the task, and spent quite a few hours working my way through that mighty tome, coming out the far side more rational and stronger (I hope). Last week I read Superforecasting, and when I was talking to a friend of mine about it, they mentioned that given the replication crisis, shouldn’t we be reviewing and updating the sequences to make sure it wasn’t based in any research that didn’t replicate?

This struck me as a pretty good idea, enough so that I would have been willing to put my time into that project. Given this, I reached out to Rob Bensinger, Head of Research Communications at MIRI, since he’d done the original editing to make the Sequences into AI to Zombies, and asked if that was something that was going to happen.

He informed me that not only was AI to Zombies being updated, the first two books had already been released. Big win, and they went straight to the top of my to-read pile.

The first book, Map and Territory, took me four hours to go through. At 354 pages, it was a much less intimidating piece to take on than the whole stack of six-in-one, and the quality’s definitely gone up a bit – I’d be hard pressed to point to any single item, but I found it flowed more smoothly than the AI to Zombies version. It does an excellent job of explaining the relevant concepts, and of keeping you (me, at least) turning pages – I could see sitting down and reading it end to end without moving.

From Scope Insensitivity to The Simple Truth, Map and Territory has excellent flow and kept me hooked. Eliezer’s writing practically sparkles in this edition, with all of the polish that’s been added. If you haven’t read the Sequences yet, definitely pick up the new editions and remedy this. You’ll be glad you did!

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