Machines of Loving Grace

  • by John Markoff
  • Narrated by George Newbern
  • 11 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

As robots are increasingly integrated into modern society - on the battlefield and the road, in business, education, and health - Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times science writer John Markoff searches for an answer to one of the most important questions of our age: Will these machines help us, or will they replace us?
In the past decade alone, Google introduced us to driverless cars, Apple debuted a personal assistant that we keep in our pockets, and an Internet of Things connected the smaller tasks of everyday life to the farthest reaches of the Internet. There is little doubt that robots are now an integral part of society, and cheap sensors and powerful computers will ensure that in the coming years, these robots will soon act on their own. This new era offers the promise of immense computing power, but it also reframes a question first raised more than half a century ago, at the birth of the intelligent machine: Will we control these systems, or will they control us?
In Machines of Loving Grace, New York Times reporter John Markoff, the first reporter to cover the World Wide Web, offers a sweeping history of the complicated and evolving relationship between humans and computers. Over the recent years, the pace of technological change has accelerated dramatically, reintroducing this difficult ethical quandary with newer and far weightier consequences. As Markoff chronicles the history of automation, from the birth of the artificial intelligence and intelligence augmentation communities in the 1950s to the modern-day brain trusts at Google and Apple in Silicon Valley and on to the expanding tech corridor between Boston and New York, he traces the different ways developers have addressed this fundamental problem and urges them to carefully consider the consequences of their work.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Excellent blend of tech, philosophy, bio

What does George Newbern bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Newbern is an excellent narrator. Engaging and clear.


Any additional comments?

Thorough and thoughtfully written history of the sometimes-at-odds scientific pursuits of AI (artifical intelligence) and IA (intelligence augmentation). The book does an admirable job of giving enough detail and technical information to truly explain the scientific developments, but not too much to make a lay reader feel overwhelmed. He has interwoven the technical feats with the biographies and personalities of the key players, as well as the dueling philosophies at the heart of how we currently interract with automated and robotic technology, how we should do so in the future, and the attendant dangers. This book acts as a nice counterpoint and compliment to a number of other books, including The Second Machine Age; Superintellegence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies; The Glass Cage; In the Plex; portions of The Pentagon's Brain; and The Master Algorithm (which I am still in the process of reading). Machines of Loving Grace and these other books all shine a light on our relationship with technology, how it shapes us and how we shapte it, and offers generous food for thought as we move forward into a future where our daily lives will be ever more enmeshed with technology.

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- S. Yates

Good point, but needs to cut down on the fluff

This entire book was spent giving examples of the AI vs IA paradigm in robotics. All to be summarized in the final chapter.

The examples can drag on for way too long, and with timelines unconnected; hard to follow for an audiobook.

Anyone interested in robotics and automation should read this, but skipping to the last chapter will give you the same knowledge as fully listening to the entire thing; albeit with less of the unending drudgery of fluff and filler.
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- Chawit

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-25-2015
  • Publisher: HarperAudio