Illustrations: Liron Gilenberg
Robots exist all around us. They populate our factories, assist our surgeons and have become an integral part of our armed forces. But they are not just working behind the scenes – impressive inventions such as free-roaming hoovers takecare of your household chores and the iPal is set to become your closest friend.
David Hambling reveals the groundbreaking machines – once the realm of science fiction – that are by our sides today, and those that are set to change the future forever. From the Reem robocop that polices the streets of Dubai to the drones that deliver our parcels and even the uncanny Gemonoid Hi-4 built to look just like you, here are fifty unique robots that reach into every aspect of our daily lives.
We:Robot examines why robots have become embedded in our culture, how they work and what they tell us about our society and its future.
I should preface this review with a word of caution: I am a complete Luddite. Not only do I not understand technology, but I usually don’t care. I don’t have a Snapchat. I don’t do Twitter. I thought Amazon Echo was a complete waste of time. I really cannot understand why you would want your life to be run by gadgets and gizmos, which you then have to take to the Apple Store to get repaired when they (inevitably) break. That being said, I do think technology is cool. The things we can do now with technology are astounding. Robots are cool. And a little bit scary. So, that’s why I picked up this book. And why I probably didn’t “get” the techie stuff as much as, say a 16-year old kid would… Honestly, my 17-year old sister had to explain to me how to put shortcuts on my phone. Not even joking. I don’t get technology…
And yet I really enjoyed We : Robot.
First off, the illustrations are just beautiful. Liron Gilenberg’s graphics are crisp, colourful, and modern, and accompanied by clean photos of some seriously weird and wonderful doodads. Robots. Not doodads. Sorry. Slipped into grandma mode for a second there… But this is undoubtedly one you’re going to want a nice hardcover print copy of, because the illustrations are worth studying.
The author makes some very interesting points about how technology and humanity can, and already do, work together. We have a symbiotic relationship with robotics. I can’t say it made the idea of my entire life becoming automated, and the whole AI thing, any less terrifying, but it was a good point. I found that, in a very gentle way, the book made me reconsider my own relationship to technology. I mean, having a washing machine and being able to watch Netflix on my phone, these things have undeniably made my life better. Maybe technology isn’t all terrible? Maybe it does have some surprising benefits for society?
Lego Mindstorms have more computing power than NASA had when it put a man on the moon.
I enjoyed learning about the history of robotics and computing. It’s not a subject I usually gravitate towards, but the author made it relatable by using comparisons and examples which (even I) understood. I got a real sense of the scale and pace of change which technology has brought to the Western world. I liked the strange, out-there robots which were mixed in with the more mundane and recognisable. The “Robots Beyond” section, in particular, was quite enthralling. There are robots designed like dolphins, an Octobot which is a prototype of “soft robotics” and has no electronic components (and is surprisingly adorable), and some rather disturbing robots called things like “Sophia” and “Geminoid HI-4” which imitate humans. The detail was comprehensive, without being overwhelming, and what could have been a dry, factual subject was rendered surprisingly readable.
Ray Kuzweil, Google’s director of engineering, anticipates that computers will exceed human intelligence in the 2040s.
The book did make some rather terrifying predictions. I mean, what does the future look like as technology advances? These questions remain unanswered, and I think we will all be pondering that more and more as robotics is advancing so rapidly.
I enjoyed We : Robot very much, and would recommend it anyone with an interest in technology and non-fiction. Or, for people like me, who simply enjoy reading about things they don’t understand.
Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.