Robots

John Jordan

Published by

MIT Press
ISBN

9780262529501

RRP

£11.95

Reviewed by

Sheila Bullas

Score

10 out of 10

John Jordan aims to encourage a wide range of individuals to have a well-informed debate on how robots should develop in the future and what they should do. The timing is particularly important as robots increasingly impact on the relationship between humans and machines. He is keen that the debate is not just for scientists and politicians but for all of us who have an interest in machines that will have a profound impact on our daily lives in the not too distant future.

He has written a very accessible book that covers a review of the current position and how we got here and, in my view, has achieved his main objective. He explores the work that has been undertaken to define a robot, before taking a broad definition from industrial robots through to more autonomous machines being developed for warfare, care, driverless cars and other uses. This book does not require any technical knowledge of robots.

The author describes the role of robots in popular culture and how they have informed the popular view of robots. He then discusses the current position before taking each of the main topics in turn for more detailed analysis. The technical issues, social and political aspects, including the impact on human behaviour, the economic implications and the need for legal frameworks (for example, who is responsible if driverless cars collide - the manufacturer, the owner or the operator?) are discussed. The pros and cons of developing in certain directions are addressed with consideration of what unintended consequences might arise.

At a time when much public debate is based on opinion rather than knowledge and where that opinion, while informed, may be limited in scope, this book is a refreshingly detailed exploration of the wide topic.

The discussion is supported by extensive notes for those who wish to go into further detail. An excellent book - 10/10.

Further information: MIT Press

November 2017