Robots in Popular Culture: Androids and Cyborgs in the American Imagination

Greenwood. Jul. 2021. 325p. ISBN 9781440873843. $97. REF
Hall (Pop Goes the Decade: The 2000s) and contributors Lisa C. Bailey, Keith R. Claridy, and Josh Plock address depictions of robots in pop culture, as well as related issues and moral questions. Thematic essays discuss robots and slavery, robots as heroes and villains, and more. Signed, alphabetically arranged articles offer fascinating examinations of the creature in Frankenstein, the Buffybot on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Tay chatbot. Each article covers the history of a particular robot, discusses the work in which it appears, explores the robot’s purpose, and includes a bibliography, black-and-white images, and references for further reading. Entries indicate when modern robotics and AI have caught up with fiction. For its proper historical perspective of literary robots and AI throughout popular culture, this title works well with Gregory Jerome Hampton’s Imagining Slaves and Robots in Literature, Film, and Popular Culture: Reinventing Yesterday’s Slave with Tomorrow’s Robot. Other works on the topic tend to focus more on the creation, design, and use of robots; tech’s effect on human behavior; or specific pop culture robots.
VERDICT Fun, thought-provoking examination of contemporary society’s use of robots and the continual evolution of AI and robotics. Will fascinate sci-fi buffs, ethicists, computer scientists, programmers, and robotics engineers.
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