The Loop is a strong entry in the canon ... AI represents perhaps the ultimate shiny object. But Ward penetrates to the dark vacancy at its core, machine-learning systems that in the permutations of pattern recognition they deploy are inexplicable even to their architects ... Overall, the loop conjures an ambient version of Aldous Huxley’s soporific 'soma,' endlessly unspooling in infinite regress, clasping us ever tighter in its solicitous clinch—this at a time when climate change and other pressing woes place a premium on human agency. How to 'fight back'? We need to honor values beyond ease and convenience, Ward writes; the desirability of difficulty, for instance. There’s an idea.
Ward...gives a fascinating survey of the known spectrum of human biases that get in our way of thinking through things, even when we convince ourselves we have ... Ward...rebuts the Silicon Valley-esque assumption that A.I. will always do good. Recent examples from police usage of pretrial risk assessments and facial recognition should make us think twice, as Ward suggests, about trusting A.I. implicitly. Then again, those examples suffer from yet another human bias, namely the actor-observer bias, which leads most people to think they won’t be targeted by such systems anytime soon. So Ward is fighting an uphill battle, and although he tries to make it feel real, not all of his examples work.
More than telling readers anything new about the dangers of technology...The Loop provides evidence that tech criticism itself is calcifying into a mainstream genre ... More often than not...Ward’s examples don’t fit into his neat conception of AI as a force for evil ... The Loop has the right anecdotes to wrestle with the ethical ambiguity of AI, but instead it tries to prove that AI is, almost without exception, bad. Ward seems to have drawn the wrong lessons from the techlash authors who came before him: Rather than following their methods of considering from all angles and questioning the status quo, he rides the new status quo they helped establish ... The Loop, like many books that set out to prove that technology is unequivocally bad, has little new to offer. Instead, it continues to clang the bell of anti-tech rabble-rousing, a sound we’ve all heard before and don’t need to hear again.