Machines of Loving Grace by John Markoff

Genre: nonfiction, technology
Format read: audiobook
Rating: planchet-3

I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t pick this book because of the title–which was borrowed for Machines of Loving Grace, one of my favorite typewriter research sources (yes, I am a nerd. You just now noticed?).

Anyway, the book explores the role of technology in the human experience, and the difference between machines that think for themselves to replace humans, and those that are intended to make human tasks easier.

While the concept is interesting, I found a great deal of the material to be repetitive and dull. It also focused exclusively on innovations by men, and I know there are women making great strides in robotics and adaptive technology. In fact, most of the anti-AI and anti-technology arguments made in the book were centered on how technology impacts male-centered blue collar labor, while most of the pro- arguments (such as how technology could aid the disabled, or stay at home parents, or more female-occupied jobs like teaching or nursing) were glossed over or skipped completely. It was a glaring oversight, in my opinion, especially for a book that was only published in 2015.

It might be an interesting read if only for the questions it raises, but only about the first half of the book is useful. After that, the author just repeats himself a lot. Save your time for something more valuable.

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