Almost Human: Making Robots Thinkby Lee Gutkind
A remarkable, intense portrait of the robotic subculture and the challenging quest for robot autonomy.The high bay at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University is alive and hyper night and day with the likes of Hyperion, which traversed the Antarctic, and Zoe, the world’s first robot scientist, now back home. Robot Segways learn to play soccer/p>
A remarkable, intense portrait of the robotic subculture and the challenging quest for robot autonomy.The high bay at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University is alive and hyper night and day with the likes of Hyperion, which traversed the Antarctic, and Zoe, the world’s first robot scientist, now back home. Robot Segways learn to play soccer, while other robots go on treasure hunts or are destined for hospitals and museums. Dozens of cavorting mechanical creatures, along with tangles of wire, tools, and computer innards are scattered haphazardly. All of these zipping and zooming gizmos are controlled by disheveled young men sitting on the floor, folding chairs, or tool cases, or huddled over laptops squinting into displays with manic intensity. Award-winning author Lee Gutkind immersed himself in this frenzied subculture, following these young roboticists and their bold conceptual machines from Pittsburgh to NASA and to the most barren and arid desert on earth. He makes intelligible their discoveries and stumbling points in this lively behind-the-scenes work.
Godfather of creative nonfiction, Gutkind (English, Univ. of Pittsburgh; In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction) narrates a tour deep underground into the creative subculture of robotics research and development. Drawing on years of observational curiosity at Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute, both in the lab and in the field, Gutkind explores the people and ideas behind machines developed to do the impossible: operate autonomously. This so-called bleeding-edge robotics is illuminated through stories of success and failure, tension between engineers developing bodies and the coders programming their artificial intelligence, motivational cross-pollination between seasoned veterans and young grad students, and performance tests chock-full of moments of elation and depression. Readers are given a strong sense of the drama inherent in the discipline, whether advancing incrementally or by leaps and bounds. Because the book at times reads either like marketing material for Carnegie Mellon's robotics program or a "blook," i.e., a blog made into a book, interest is not always sustained. Recommended as inspirational reading for robotics practitioners, whether high school students, grad students, faculty, or practicing professionals.
James A. Buczynski, Seneca Coll. of Applied Arts & Technology, Toronto
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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- NOOK Book
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- 411 KB
Meet the Author
Lee Gutkind is the founder and editor of the literary journal Creative Nonfiction and a pioneer in the field of narrative nonfiction. Gutkind is also the editor of In Fact and Becoming a Doctor, the author of Almost Human, and has written books about baseball, health care, travel, and technology. A Distinguished Writer in Residence at Arizona State University, he lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Tempe, Arizona.
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