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Deep Learning: John Kelleher **

This is an entry in a series from the MIT Press that selects a small part of a topic (in this case, a subset of artificial intelligence) and gives it an 'essential knowledge' introduction. The problem is, there seems to be no consistency over the target audience of the series.

I previously reviewed Virtual Reality in the same series and it kept things relatively simple and approachable to the general reader, even if it did overdo the hype. This book by John Kelleher starts gently, but by about half way through it has become a full-blown simplified textbook with far too much in-depth technical content. That's exactly what you don't want in a popular science title.

What we get is plenty of detail of what deep learning-based systems are and how they work at the technical level, but there is practically nothing on how they fit with applications (unless you count playing games), which are described but not really explained, nor is there anything much on the problems that arise when deep learning is used for real world applications. There is a passing reference, admittedly to the difficulties of understanding how a deep learning AI system came to a decision and how this clashes with the EU's GDPR requirement for transparency and explanation, but if feels more like this is done to criticise the naivety of the legislation than the danger of using such systems.

Similarly, I saw nothing about the dangers of deep learning systems using big data picking up on correlations that don't involve any causal link, nor does the book discuss the long tail problems that arise with inputs that are relatively uncommon and so are unlikely to turn up in the training data. Similarly we read nothing about the dangers of adversarial attacks, which can fool the systems into misinterpreting inputs with tiny changes, or the difficulties such systems have with real, messy environments as opposed to the rigid rules of a game.

Overall, the book is both pitched wrong and doesn't cover the aspects that really matter to the public. It may well do fine as an introductory text for a computer science student, but that doesn't fit with the blurb on the back, which implies it is for public consumption.

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Review by Brian Clegg

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