978-0-7139-9501-5 / 9780713995015

Robot: The Future of Flesh and Machines


Publisher:ALLEN LANE



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About the book:

For someone who runs MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory--one of the world's leading AI institutes--Robot author Rodney Brooks is remarkably laid-back about the business of intelligence.

In fact, he doesn't rate it very highly. In an account of a life's work remarkable for its wit, its humility and its generosity (Brooks's colleagues and students are very well served), a running theme is the conspicuous impossibility of building intelligence into machines that are otherwise not lifelike. Brooks bemoans those experimental robots which "used reasoning in situations where real animals have direct links from perception to action".

His own approach is much less abstruse, much easier to understand and communicate--and much more radical. Brooks's robots aren't supposed to think. They're supposed to feel. They have emotions. 'Just sensing and action. This is all I would build, and completely leave out what traditionally was thought of as the intelligence of an artificial intelligence.'

The result of his work is a living menagerie of extraordinary philosophical importance. Wander through Brooks's 'zoo', and you may find your own biological specialness challenged. More important, though, is what these lovingly detailed experiments say about the body (whatever it's made from), about feelings, and about the incalculably messy nature of the world.

Rarely, in a literature besotted with abstraction and disembodiment, do we come across a life-enhancing book. This is it.--Simon Ings

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