One of the very best works of nonfiction I’ve read this year is Martin Ford’s Rise of the Robots. For readers interested in a deeper look at how we got to now and the crucial cultural crossroads we’re at in terms of the future of labor and capital, you don’t want to miss that one.
It’s a fact robots are poised to transform society as completely as the Internet did twenty years ago and that the process is already underway. (Think not? Ask Siri.) The central question of John Markoff’s useful complement to Rise of the Robots is: Will these robots help us or replace us? And it’s an urgent question since the process is already well underway.
Markoff is a NYT reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. He does a clear, compelling and at times unnerving job here. A first serial will run in Harper’s magazine and the book is set for coverage in the NYT, NPR’s Fresh Air, Wired and The Economist.
‘Loving grace’ may be an alternative to relentless usurpation, according to this conflicted examination of the looming robot takeover. New York Times journalist Markoff considers the prospects of mass unemployment and human obsolescence from rapidly accelerating automation of labor, and suggests that we have a choice between the warring engineering strategies of ‘intelligence augmentation’ that empowers the human mind and ‘artificial intelligence’ that replaces it….He follows this counterpoint through a detailed, engrossing history of robotics that takes in both the technical challenges…and the design philosophies motivating researchers. ….This revealing look at profound technological and economic developments will unsettle anyone who has a job to lose.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Will robots of the future be our partners or our Frankenstein’s monster? You should read this book. As Markoff explains in this engrossing narrative filled with colorful characters and head-snapping insights, the answer is up to us.”
— Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs and The Innovators
“The author’s overall argument is clear: that a synthesis is underway between future AI developments and the ubiquity of such technologies now. The author asserts that ‘programs like Siri…are beginning to make human-machine interactions in natural language seem routine.’”
— Kirkus Reviews
Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots (9780062266682) by John Markoff. $26.99 hardcover. 8/25/15 on sale.