Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach (3rd Edition) by Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig
This is the definitive book on the current state of AI. It is used for the textbook in the Introduction to Artificial Intelligence at Stanford University. (I bought the book to take the class online.) It covers advanced topics, and is very information-dense. It is for the more technically-minded person. In addition, the paper version is over 1000 pages!
Stuart Russell is Professor of Computer Science and Smith-Zadeh Professor in Engineering, University of California, Berkeley and Adjunct Professor of Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Francisco. Read about him here.
Peter Norvig has also been a professor at University of California, Berkeley, and is currently Director of Research at Google. Read more about him here.
At the end of each section in the book, there are exercises to help give you an in-depth understanding of each topic. These do not, necessarily, require any programing, or even a computer. Obviously, using a computer would help a lot, and you probably won’t get very far in the field without one. Of course writing code will help even more and will cement your knowledge with useful foundations.
While on the subject of programming, I should mention that the book has an official web page, and the authors have graciously posted a large collection of source code in Java, C++, Prolog, LISP and Python.
Section I presents an introduction to AI to define what it is, and how it is used in the world. It introduces the concept of intelligent agents. An agent is not necessarily a robot because there are software agents, too. Software agents are used a lot in our world of 2012. Two examples that you’ve probably used are: Google uses them in their search suggestions and Amazon uses them in their product recommendations.
Section II is about problem solving. This includes solving by searching, uninformed and informed searching, heuristic functions, adversarial search, constraint satisfaction problems and much more.
It is worth pointing out that while the book does not explain all of the mathematics behind the formulas used, it does include the formulas themselves. Appendix A does explain a lot of the math. If you’re unfamiliar with the math, it will probably help you to study up on it before tackling some of the math presented here. You can easily find pages on the net to help. You may want to start with mathematical symbols and follow up with in-depth courses from Khan Academy.
The book also includes pseudo-code for all important algorithms. This, alone, is worth the price of the book.
Section III is titled “Knowledge, reasoning and planning”. This has the subsections Logical Agents, First-Order Logic, Inference in First-Order Logic, Classical Planning, Planning and Acting in the Real World and Knowledge Representation.
Section IV is “Uncertain knowledge and reasoning”. It covers how to quantify uncertainty, acting under it, probabilistic reasoning, probabilistic reasoning over time, and making simple and complex decisions.
Section V is about learning and the many ways to accomplish it. Section VI is “Communicating, perceiving and acting”. This includes chapters for natural language processing, which means dealing with languages such as English; natural language for communication, or, how can my robot speak to these biological creatures called humans (my description, not the authors’); and perception and robotics. These topics are among the most interesting to me, especially the subject of computer vision. They include major algorithms for this, which is quite a lot of information. However, it’s such a large field, it deserves another textbook of equal size. (Sebastian Thrun plans to offer an online course in the subject, so I plan to take it.)
Section VII has conclusions, including philosophical foundations; and AI: present and future. Honestly, I’ve only skimmed these chapters, but I can tell you that they’re very worthwhile. (I do plan to study them in the near future.)
The bibliography included is excellent. The citations include everything from the 14th century(!) to current time. I like the way each section ends with a historical discussion that includes references. Unlike citation sections in many other books, that are dry and boring, these discussions are intriguing, informative and often humorous. Which reminds me – there is quite a lot of humor spread throughout the book. I think that some of it may only be caught by the most technical reader, but a lot of it will appeal to everyone. Please understand, this is definitely not a comedy. It is a technical book. I just want to point out that the authors use humor in certain places, especially in defining and describing the problems, and I think it helps.
Overall, I have to give this book a very high rating. I’m glad that I bought a copy, and I think I’ll refer to it often in my projects. Again, this is a very technical book. It is also huge. I sometimes read one or more novels in a week. I have been reading this over the 10-week AI class, and (as I stated above) there are a few sections that I’ve still not finished. Of course I was watching videos for the class, studying and doing homework during that time, too; but I just point this out to let you know it will take a major commitment of time to actually read the entire book. Bottom line: you will definitely benefit from it!
I bought the Kindle version, and my only complaints are that my Kindle does not display some of the mathematical symbols used, and that the images included are not very usable, even when “zoomed in”. These are actually criticisms of the Kindle device, itself, because I can see the symbols and images much better on the (free) PC Kindle reading software. Since I’ll usually be referring to this book while working on my computer, this is an annoyance only while reading through the book for the first time. Oh, one other point – I cannot read it at all on the iPhone because it is not formatted for that device.
Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach (3rd Edition) sells for $117.24 for the hardback and $59.66 for the Kindle edition on Amazon.com.