Robots and the People Who Love Them: Holding on to Our Humanity in an Age of Social Robots

St. Martin’s. Jan. 2024. 256p. ISBN 9781250122209. $27. TECH
This book is about socially interactive robots or androids, often human-like in appearance and behavior; via artificial intelligence, they are increasingly able to listen, converse, and learn. Herold (director of public policy research and education, Genetics Policy Inst.; Beyond Human) takes no position on whether robots can eventually attain consciousness. Instead, she focuses on robots that can increasingly do human tasks—teaching, entertaining children, and more—but which have no emotions. Herold points out many ways that present-day social robots (and future version that are further developed) can improve human lives, such as performing tasks for people who are ill, disabled, or in danger, such as soldiers on a battlefield. She also writes that human-computer relationships are one-sided, of course, even as humans often anthropomorphize social robots and sometimes become attached to them. Herold expresses concern that as robots evolve, humans might forget that they’re programmed and start seeing them as capable of real relationships. She fears that this could inspire people to prefer undemanding relationships with robots and neglect to commune with other people.
VERDICT A good, thought-provoking acquisition about the deep changes that robots could bring to society. For technologically aware patrons.
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