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Books about the future of Robotics

. Books about the future of Robotics

Flesh and Machines: How Robots Will Change Us
by Rodney Allen Brooks

Flesh and Machines
explores the startlingly reciprocal connection between humans and their technological brethren, and explains how this relationship is being redefined as humans develop increasingly complex machines. The impetus to build machines that exhibit lifelike behaviors stretches back centuries, but for the last fifteen years much of this work has been done in Rodney Brooks’s laboratory at MIT. His goal is not simply to build machines that are like humans but to alter our perception of the potential capabilities of robots. Our current attitude toward intelligent robots, he asserts, is simply a reflection of our own view of ourselves.

In Flesh and Machines, Brooks challenges that view by suggesting that human nature can be seen to possess the essential characteristics of a machine. Our instinctive rejection of that idea, he believes, is itself a conditioned response: we have programmed ourselves to believe in our “tribal specialness” as proof of our uniqueness.

Provocative, persuasive, compelling, and unprecedented, Flesh and Machines presents a vision of our future and our future selves.


Digital People: From Bionic Humans to Androids
by Sidney Perkowitz

In a lab at MIT, scientists have created an artificial being named COG. To watch COG interact with its environment--to recognize that this machine has actual body language - is to experience a hair-raising, gut-level reaction. Because just as we connect to artificial people in fiction, the merest hint of human-like action or appearance invariably engages us in real life. "Digital People examines the ways in which technology is inexorably driving us to a new and different level of humanity. As scientists draw on nanotechnology, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and new kinds of materials, they are learning how to create beings that move, think, and look like people. Other researchers are routinely using sophisticated surgical techniques to implant computer chips and drug-dispensing devices into our bodies, designing fully functional man-made body parts, and linking human brains with computers to make people healthier, smarter, and stronger. In short, we are going beyond what was once only science fiction to create bionic people with fully integrated artificial components - and it will not be long before we reach the ultimate goal of constructing a completely synthetic human-like being. It seems quintessentially human to look beyond our natural limitations. Science has long been the lens through which we peer to discern our future. Although we are rightfully fearful about manipulating the boundaries between animate and inanimate, the benefits are too great to ignore. This thoughtful and provocative book shows us just where technology is taking us, in directions both wonderful and terrible, to ponder what it means to be human.


Cybernetics, Second Edition: or the Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine
by Norbert Wiener
The MIT Press; 2nd edition (March 15, 1965)

"It appers impossible for anyone seriously interested in our civilization to ignore this book. It is a `must' book for those in every branch of science . . . in addition, economists, politicians, statesmen, and businessmen cannot afford to overlook cybernetics and its tremendous, even terrifying implications."


Robo sapiens: Evolution of a New Species
by Peter Menzel (Photographer), Faith D'Aluisio

If you believe the children are our future, you're only half right. Photographer Peter Menzel and journalist Faith D'Aluisio traveled around the world interviewing researchers who want to jump-start our evolution by designing and building electrical and mechanical extensions of ourselves - robots. Their book, Robo Sapiens, takes its title from the notion that our species might somehow merge with our creations, either literally or symbiotically. The photography is brilliant, showing the endearing and creepy sides of the robots and roboticists and feeling like stills from unmade science-fiction films. D'Aluisio's interviews are insightful and often very funny, as when she calls MIT superstar Rodney Brooks on his statement that we ought not "overanthropomorphize" people. Brooks is an interesting study. Having shaken up the robotics and artificial-intelligence fields with his elimination of high-level intelligence and dedication to tiny, insectoid, built-from-the-ground-up robots, he now works on large, human-mimicking machines. But hundreds of other researchers, in Japan, Europe, and the United States, are working on various aspects of machine behavior, from the eerily lifelike robotic faces of Fumio Hara and Alvaro Villa to the monkeylike movement of Brachiator III; each of them casts a bit of light on the future of their field in their short interviews. Though it's clear that we shouldn't hold our breath waiting for a robot butler, Robo Sapiens suggests that much cooler - and stranger - events are coming soon. - Rob Lightner


Concise Encyclopedia of Robotics
by Stan Gibilisco

This is a 400-page, illustrated encyclopaedia, intended mainly for amateur robotics fans, electronics hobbyists and students, covering the subjects of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI). The definitions are short, yet informative. There are approximately 150 illustrations. The book aims to address the need for a broad-view reference about robotics and AI. Aimed at the general, rather than professional, reader, the presentation is relatively non-mathematical. It is not intended as a problem-solving book. It will, however, help clear up confusion as to the meanings of terms and the applications (real and potential) of the technologies and systems defined. Key features of this encyclopaedia include: concise presentation; reader-friendly definitions; making complex concepts easy to understand; extensive cross-referencing; clear illustrations; coverage of the latest developments and trends; and a comprehensive bibliography.


Coded Characters
by Jill Scott, Roy Ascott, Robert Atkins

Since 1975, the experimental work of Australian-born artist Jill Scott has evolved from making surveillance-performance events, to video art, to new computer art and interactive cinema. Coded Characters surveys her work, noting a persistent questioning of the role of the audience and an interest in the human body, which for Scott becomes both an interface and a player in the evolving zones of tech space and physical reality.

Evolutionary Robotics : The Biology, Intelligence, and Technology of Self-Organizing Machines (Intelligent Robotics and Autonomous Agents)
by Stefano Nolfi, Dario Floreano

Evolutionary robotics is a new technique for the automatic creation of autonomous robots. Inspired by the Darwinian principle of selective reproduction of the fittest, it views robots as autonomous artificial organisms that develop their own skills in close interaction with the environment and without human intervention. Drawing heavily on biology and ethology, it uses the tools of neural networks, genetic algorithms, dynamic systems, and biomorphic engineering. The resulting robots share with simple biological systems the characteristics of robustness, simplicity, small size, flexibility, and modularity. In evolutionary robotics, an initial population of artificial chromosomes, each encoding the control system of a robot, is randomly created and put into the environment. Each robot is then free to act (move, look around, manipulate) according to its genetically specified controller while its performance on various tasks is automatically evaluated. The fittest robots then "reproduce" by swapping parts of their genetic material with small random mutations. The process is repeated until the "birth" of a robot that satisfies the performance criteria. This book describes the basic concepts and methodologies of evolutionary robotics and the results achieved so far. An important feature is the clear presentation of a set of empirical experiments of increasing complexity. Software with a graphic interface, freely available on a Web page, will allow the reader to replicate and vary (in simulation and on real robots) most of the experiments.


Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence
by Andy Clark

From Robocop to the Terminator to Eve 8, no image better captures our deepest fears about technology than the cyborg, the person who is both flesh and metal, brain and electronics. But philosopher and cognitive scientist Andy Clark sees it differently. Cyborgs, he writes, are not something to be feared - we already are cyborgs. In Natural-Born Cyborgs, Clark argues that what makes humans so different from other species is our capacity to fully incorporate tools and supporting cultural practices into our existence. Technology as simple as writing on a sketchpad, as familiar as Google or a cellular phone, and as potentially revolutionary as mind-extending neural implants - all exploit our brains' astonishingly plastic nature. Our minds are primed to seek out and incorporate non-biological resources, so that we actually think and feel through our best technologies. Drawing on his expertise in cognitive science, Clark demonstrates that our sense of self and of physical presence can be expanded to a remarkable extent, placing the long-existing telephone and the emerging technology of telepresence on the same continuum. He explores ways in which we have adapted our lives to make use of technology (the measurement of time, for example, has wrought enormous changes in human existence), as well as ways in which increasingly fluid technologies can adapt to individual users during normal use. Bio-technological unions, Clark argues, are evolving with a speed never seen before in history. As we enter an age of wearable computers, sensory augmentation, wireless devices, intelligent environments, thought-controlled prosthetics, and rapid-fire information search and retrieval, the line between the user and her tools grows thinner day by day. "This double whammy of plastic brains and increasingly responsive and well-fitted tools creates an unprecedented opportunity for ever-closer kinds of human-machine merger," he writes, arguing that such a merger is entirely natural. A stunning new look at the human brain and the human self, Natural Born Cyborgs reveals how our technology is indeed inseparable from who we are and how we think.


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