Melanie Mitchell

Books Esther Newberg, +1 212 556 5600 Email Esther Newberg

Artificial Intelligence

book | Non-Fiction | Oct 2019
World English → Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc (Ed. Eric Chinski)
A Guide for Thinking Humans 

No recent scientific enterprise has proved as alluring, terrifying, and filled with extravagant promise and frustrating setbacks as artificial intelligence. The award-winning author Melanie Mitchell, a leading computer scientist, now reveals its turbulent history and the recent surge of apparent successes, grand hopes, and emerging fears that surround AI.

In Artificial Intelligence, Mitchell turns to the most urgent questions concerning AI today: How intelligent—really—are the best AI programs? How do they work? What can they actually do, and when do they fail? How humanlike do we expect them to become, and how soon do we need to worry about them surpassing us? Along the way, she introduces the dominant methods of modern AI and machine learning, describing cutting-edge AI programs, their human inventors, and the historical lines of thought that led to recent achievements. She meets with fellow experts like Douglas Hofstadter, the cognitive scientist and Pulitzer Prize–winning author of the modern classic Gödel, Escher, Bach, who explains why he is “terrified” about the future of AI. She explores the profound disconnect between the hype and the actual achievements in AI, providing a clear sense of what the field has accomplished and how much farther it has to go.

Interweaving stories about the science and the people behind it, Artificial Intelligence brims with clear-sighted, captivating, and approachable accounts of the most interesting and provocative modern work in AI, flavored with Mitchell’s humor and personal observations. This frank, lively book will prove an indispensable guide to understanding today’s AI, its quest for “human-level” intelligence, and its impacts on all of our futures.


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Artificial intelligence US Cover

Melanie Mitchell deftly provides the reader with a keen, clear-sighted account of the history of AI and neural networks... A wonderfully informative book.

John Allen Paulos, Professor of Mathematics, Temple University, and author of Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences

If you think you understand AI and all of the related issues, you don’t. By the time you finish this exceptionally lucid and riveting book you will breathe more easily and wisely. 

Michael S. Gazzaniga, Director of the SAGE Center for the Study of Mind, University of California-Santa Barbara, and author of The Consciousness Instinct

Melanie Mitchell writes about AI with a warm, friendly voice and an unpretentious brilliance that no machine could hope to match... for now. 

Steven Strogatz, professor of mathematics, Cornell University, and author of Infinite Powers

Artificial intelligence can trounce you at chess, but will mistake a school bus for an ostrich or make bizarre connections between birds and hydrants. Mitchell cuts through the hype that the field of A.I. is often prone to and lays out what it does well, where it fails, and how it might do better. 

George Musser, author of Spooky Action at a Distance

Melanie Mitchell’s book is a must read for anyone interested in the emerging revolution of AI, machine learning and big data. She provides a remarkably lucid and comprehensive overview not just of their power and potential in shaping life in the 21st century but, perhaps more importantly, of their shortcomings and dangers. 

Geoffrey West, distinguished professor at the Santa Fe Institute, and author of Scale: The Universal Laws of Life, Growth, and Death in Organisms, Cities, and Companies

This worthy volume should assuage lay readers' fears about AI, while also reassuring those drawn to the field that much work remains to be done. 

Publishers Weekly

Computer scientist Melanie Mitchell elegantly separates the truth from the hype in this lucid, clear-eyed book.

Christian Science Monitor
10 best books of October 2019

Without shying away from technical details, this survey provides an accessible course in neural networks, computer vision, and natural-language processing, and asks whether the quest to produce an abstracted, general intelligence is worrisome.

The New Yorker

The recent resurgence of AI has led to predictions of everything from the end of the world to immortality. Melanie Mitchell's very intelligent, clear and sensible book is a welcome corrective to the exagerated fears and hopes for AI, and the perfect primer to start understanding how the systems actually work.

Alison Gopnik
author of The Philosophical Baby

Computers are capable of feats of astonishing intelligence, while at the same time lacking any semblance of common sense. Melanie Mitchell takes us through an enlightening tour of how artificial intelligence currently works, and how it falls short of true human understanding. The challenges and opportunities discussed in this book will be crucial in shaping the future of humanity and technology.

Sean Carroll
Author of Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime

Melanie Mitchell nails it: current AI does all kinds of neat tricks, but there's no real understanding there, and until there is, we will never get to the real promise of AI.

Gary Marcus
coauthor of Rebooting AI

[This book describes] wonderfully clearly how different AI applications actually work, and hence helps understand their strengths and limitations. I would say these are the most illuminating simple yet meaningful explanations I've read of — for example — reinforcement learning, convolutional neural networks, word vectors, etc. I wish I'd had this book when I first started reading some of the AI literature.

The Enlightened Economist

[M]ostly a surprisingly lucid introduction to techniques that are making computers smarter.


A remarkably clear and readable primer.


Without a doubt, Mitchell's book sets a new standard in giving an understanding of what's possible and how difficult it is to go further. It should be read by every journalist, PR person and politician before they pump out yet more hype on the AI future.

Popular Science

Ms Mitchell explores some of AI's main domains: visual recognition, reinforcement learning and language processing. In each area she explains the nuts and bolts, praises headline-grabbing breakthroughs, and then gives a reality check to those who might see human-like general intelligence in narrow exploits.

Wall Street Journal

Mitchell knows what she's talking about. Even better, she's a clear, cogent and interesting writer . . . Artificial Intelligence has significantly improved my knowledge when it comes to automation technology, [but] the greater benefit is that it has also enhanced my appreciation for the complexity and ineffability of human cognition.

Chicago Tribune

What is thinking and what is intelligence?...[This book] provides readers with insightful, common-sense scrutiny of how these and related topics pervade the discipline of artificial intelligence.


Esther Newberg
+1 212 556 5600
Email Esther Newberg
Translation Rights
Helen Manders
+44 (0)20 7393 4425
Email Helen Manders