The New Breed: What Our History with Animals Reveals About Our Future with Robots

Kate Darling. Holt, $29.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-29610-8
Darling, a researcher at MIT’s media lab, debuts with an upbeat if inconsistent tract on humans’ relationship with artificial intelligence. Challenging the notion that robots will soon replace humans in the workforce and could “outpace human intelligence and take control of the world,” Darling insists that robots shouldn’t be seen as replacements for humans, and calls attention to their ability to do “dirty, dull and dangerous” work, such as mining and certain military operations. Drawing on humans’ relationships with animals, she ponders the ethical and legal implications of advancing technology, and how humans should approach AI: she addresses why people get emotional about robots (such as R2-D2), linking it to a human tendency to anthropomorphize animals and pets, and considers if aggression toward robots marks the same lack of empathy as animal abuse. She also insists that AI creators and users be held responsible for machines that “misbehave,” and cautions against a future in which companies that claim “the robot did it” are let off the hook. While entertaining, Darling wanders out on tangents (her treatment of the cat lady trope, for example) that lack cohesion. Readers curious about AI’s ethical conundrums, though, will find this a breezy enough primer. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 04/14/2021
Release date: 04/20/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 978-1-250-29611-5
MP3 CD - 978-1-7136-2595-7
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-1-250-83842-1
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