Around the world, scientists and engineers are participating in a high-stakes race to build the first intelligent robot. Many robots already exist—automobile factories are full of them. But the new generation of robots will be something else: smart machines that act like living creatures. When they are brought into existence, science fiction will have become fact.
What will happen then? With our prosthetic limbs, titanium hips, and artificial eyes, we are already beginning to resemble our machines. Equally important, our machines are beginning to resemble us. Robots already walk, talk, and dance; they can react to our facial expressions and obey verbal commands. When they take the next step and become fully autonomous, what will they do? Will we be partners or rivals? Could we meld into a single species—Robo sapiens?
In Robo sapiens, Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio present the next generation of intelligent robots and their makers. Accompanying brilliant photographs of more than one hundred robots is an account of the little-known, yet vitally important scientific competition to build an autonomous robot. Containing extensive interviews with robotics pioneers, anecdotal "field notes" with behind-the-scenes information, and easy-to-understand technical data about the machines, Robo sapiens is a field guide to our mechanical future.
About the Authors
Peter Menzel is a photographer known for his coverage of international feature stories on science and the environment. His award-winning photographs have been published in Life, National Geographic, Smithsonian, the New York Times Magazine, Time, Stern, GEO, and Le Figaro. Together with Faith D'Aluisio, he is the co-creator of the books Material World: A Global Family Portrait and Women in the Material World; and is the co-author of Man Eating Bugs: The Art and Science of Eating Insects.
Faith D’Aluisio is a former television news producer. Her documentary and news series pieces have won regional and national awards from the Headlines Foundation, United Press International, Associated Press, and the Radio-Television News Directors Association. Together with Peter Menzel, she is the co-creator of the books Material World: A Global Family Portrait and Women in the Material World; and is the co-author of Man Eating Bugs: The Art and Science of Eating Insects.
"It's a stunning achievement."—Harold Thimbley, New Scientist
"This is one of the most mind-stretching—and frightening—books I've ever read. It's also a tour de force of photography: the images reveal a whole new order of creation about to come into existence. No one who has any interest in the future can afford to miss it."
—Sir Arthur C. Clarke
"Robo sapiens is a fascinating, in-depth look at one of the most challenging engineering tasks ever attempted. The photos amaze, while the text gives the inside story of researchers bashing their heads up against boggling complexity. You pick up Robo sapiens for the great photos, and then get caught up reading the inside politics of the race to build human-like machines. Don't be surprised by the coming era of robotics—read Robo sapiens and be ready."
—K. Eric Drexler, Chairman, Foresight Institute, and author, Engines of Creation and Nanosystems
"An engaging and insightful compendium illuminating our accelerating ascent to the inevitable merger of human and machine. Although many today find the prospect disconcerting, by the time the robo sapiens are fully amongst us, we will find it very natural to interact intimately with these inventions of our intellect."
—Ray Kurzweil, recipient of the 1999 National Medal of Technology and author of the Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence