To fully understand the field of artificial intelligence, including its past, present, and future, it’s important to develop a high-level understanding of the landscape. Luckily, some of the world’s leading thinkers in the fields of machine learning, data, and computer science are busy writing about everything from the ethics of AI and our future alongside intelligent machines, to the cutting-edge breakthroughs and technologies that are making it all happen.

With that in mind, here are the books I’ve read, am currently reading, and regularly recommend to others to help you on your journey towards mastery of all things AI.


Artificial Intelligence Books for Beginners

When it comes to something that has almost daily developments and paradigm-shifting future potential, it helps to get a clear and concise overview from the best and brightest thinkers who interact with and help shape these systems. Some of the very best books covering the major issues within the world of artificial intelligence research are also the perfect gateway reads, providing insight into where we are, where we’re going, and what decisions need to be made along the way.

Often providing a mix of futurism, science, and philosophy, the books below are easy to read, informative, and, quite simply, some of the best titles to bring beginners up to speed with what’s happening in the hyper-paced field of AI.

Life 3.0 – Max Tegmark

In this book MIT professor Max Tegmark addresses some of the big questions around a future in which increasingly intelligent machines become the norm in our everyday lives.

Some of the questions raised in the book were the very kinds that initially got me interested in thinking about how we as a society are currently shaping the narrative around the increasing intelligence in machines and our future alongside them.

From automation and the inevitable effects on work and the economy, to the rise of autonomous weapons, Life 3.0 is a primer for those looking to get an overview of some of the wider implications for what a tomorrow where AI is a fundamental part of our existence looks like.

AIQ: How artificial intelligence works and how we can harness its power for a better world – Nick Polson and James Scott

Written by data scientists Nicholas Polson and James Scott, AIQ lays out the realities of where artificial intelligence is and where it’s going.

Taking a detailed look at the current state of AI, as well as the key figures and technologies that brought the technology this far, this book maintains a clear central focus on the discipline’s growth in recent years thanks to three rapidly developing areas – the exponential growth in computing power, the unparalleled amount of data available, and the explosive development of cloud computing.

The authors don’t try to ‘dumb down’ the core concepts of AI yet still do a great job of keeping the subject matter incredibly accessible for beginners, from theory and application, down to providing an understanding of algorithms and the underlying math of AI. Don’t worry if math makes you sweat, the authors cleverly explain the concepts as stories rather than equations.

Machines of Loving Grace – John Markoff

If you’re looking for an introduction to both the history and future of the relationship between humans and computers, then New York Times writer John Markoff’s book is a nice place to start.

Providing an interesting perspective on how our connection to machines continues to evolve, Machines of Loving Grace examines how robots and artificial intelligence in general will have a profound impact on all of our lives in the coming decades. The book also explores our responsibility to ensure that our future with intelligent machines is one that has our best interests in mind.

The Deep Learning Revolution – Terrence J. Sejnowski

Terrence Sejnowski was one of the pioneers of deep learning in the 1980s, with research by him and his contemporaries helping fuel the growth of today’s approach to AI in which intelligent machines are powered by data, rather than the simple logic-and-symbol approach which had come before.

Based on the underlying importance of deep learning and the subsequent increasingly sophisticated ability of machines to utilize large sets of data, Sejnowski explains the critical role that this fundamental development plays in advances within the field.

Artificial Intelligence: A Very Short Introduction – Margaret A. Boden

Margaret Boden is a research professor of cognitive science at the University of Sussex where she works within the fields of artificial intelligence, cognitive and computer science, psychology, and philosophy.

As the title of the book suggests, Boden provides a concise but effective introduction to the essentials of artificial intelligence, from its applications today and in the future, through to the philosophical and technological challenges this area is almost certain to present.

The author’s long history of work in the field makes her an expert to answer the difficult questions like whether machines can ever truly reach intelligence, creativity, or even consciousness.

This book is detailed enough to cover the most essential philosophical and contextual concepts of AI, yet small enough to fit in a pocket or purse 🙌

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies – Nick Bostrom

What would happen if we reached a point in time where artificial intelligence matched and then surpassed our own?

This is one of the fundamental questions that Nick Bostrom looks to address in Superintelligence, where the author also sets the scene on humanity’s potential trajectory in a world with intelligent machines.

Assessing what would happen if there was an ‘intelligence explosion’ in the future, Bostrom discusses how (and whether) it will be possible for us to keep the lid on Pandora’s box as we continue to develop increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence that may evolve faster than we can control it.

The Sentient Machine: The Coming Age of Artificial Intelligence – Amir Husain

Amir Husain is the founder and CEO of SparkCognition and was named one of Onalytica’s Top 100 global artificial intelligence influencers.

As with many of the best AI books for beginners, The Sentient Machine covers this topic by looking at the trajectory of intelligent machines through breaking the narrative down into the past, present, and (potential) future of AI.

Some of the fundamental questions surrounding the development of AI are existential ones and Husain looks to cover some of these from his perspective, as well as presenting some of the more complex technological and theory based concepts for the layperson

Artificial Intelligence Ethics and Regulation Books

It’s likely that when you think of artificial intelligence ethical considerations aren’t the first thing that come to mind. However, as the field continues to grow and evolve, some heavy hitters in academia and industry are now taking this question very seriously.

What are the ethics behind the mass automation of work and displacement of workers? How about the legal implications and liability issues of self-driving cars? And when the artificially intelligent machines that surround us begin to close the gap with human intelligence, will they have their own rights? If so, what would that even look like?

These are the increasingly important and real questions that those in the know are now contemplating. Below are some of the very best books on the ethics of artificial intelligence.

Robot Ethics 2.0: From Autonomous Cars to Artificial Intelligence – Patrick Lin, Ryan Jenkins, and Keith Abney

As the number of tasks we hand over to intelligent machines increases, so too does the importance of studying the ethical, legal, and policy impacts of these decisions.

This is the angle of approach taken in Robot Ethics 2.0 in which experts from the wider sphere of academia provide viewpoints that include a diverse range of opinions from those in roles related to policy, ethical, and legal discussions globally.

What makes this book particularly important is the fact that it actively moves the questioning outside of the usual scientific circles and takes the crucial view of other areas to help analyze the inevitable repercussions on society of artificial intelligence and robotic agents as they get smarter and more prevalent in almost all aspects of our everyday lives.

Robot Rights – David J. Gunkel

What happens when the machines we design and build become smarter? Is there a point at which they become more than just machines? And if there is, should they have a legal or moral standing?

This is a central theme around the wider unknown questions and almost completely uncharted areas surrounding robot rights examined in this book.

Introducing new ways to think about the situation and likely implementation of robots in society from an ethical standpoint, Robot Rights unpacks many of the potential opportunities and challenges posed by artificially intelligent systems and the effect these could have on our existing moral and legal systems.

Robot Rules – Jacob Turner

In Robot Rules the author lays out the major challenges likely to be caused by the unique nature of artificial intelligence and some of the ways in which we should think about addressing them in the near future.

Unlike the technologies that came before, Turner focuses on the three core issues that independently acting and potentially unpredictable intelligent machines would cause.

By considering artificial intelligence within the categories of responsibility (who’s liable if an AI harms someone?), rights (what are the moral, legal, and pragmatic grounds for granting them to AI?), and ethics (what are the ethical considerations of an intelligent machine making decisions?), lawyer Jacob Turner suggests the changes we need to make globally to ensure we’re ready to deal with these almost inevitable issues ahead of time.