The new book by Dan Brown – Origin – is intensely related to current developments and discussions in the area of artificial intelligence. I won’t explain the story or reveal the plot, but I’d like to share the essence of Brown’s message, which is certainly based on his discussions with a host of key scientists and businessmen in the areas of artificial intelligence and philosophy.

After reading the book, you’ll realize that the entire story is driven by an algorithm from the Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) category that is greater than human ability. Dan Brown pulls no punches in his realistic depiction of the situations and dilemmas faced by key scientists in the field of artificial intelligence with regard to the prevention of the negative effects of future development.

Can AI choose the death of one person in favor of the majority? Can AI knowingly deceive a person?

Brown’s usual artistic props play a somewhat peripheral role in this story. It seems to be essential to find answers to the questions “Where did we come from?” and “Where are we headed?” Here, scientific arguments and new technologies are fully explored. The answer to the question about our origin will probably not surprise anyone and will still be a subject of dispute mainly between believers and atheists.

The other question, “Where are we headed?”, is of greater importance, however.

This question contains a few more questions: “What will the future of humankind be?”, “How difficult will the path towards this future be?”, and “Are we headed towards a technological singularity in which people will gradually be interwoven with technologies and will reach a new, higher level of existence? And when will it happen?”

Brown skillfully uses current trends, when new, revolutionary technologies seem to appear overnight. The trump-card of the protagonist, 40-year-old billionaire and futurist Edmond Kirsch, is a quantum computer: a technology expected to progress fundamentally in 2018. The most discussed feature is its ability to further accelerate Moore’s law.

In my opinion, Edmond is a kind of literary hybrid between businessman Elon Musk and artificial-intelligence scientist Yoshua Bengio. Interest in the future of humankind, artificial intelligence and large financial resources are common to both of them.

I can warmly recommend the book as a read that will motivate you to think deeply and to understand the wider context better. Moreover, you will enjoy Brown’s classic, action-oriented plot!


Petr Šrámek