The best robotics books

1 authors have picked their favorite books about robotics and why they recommend each book.

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Liar!

By Isaac Asimov,

Book cover of Liar!

Asimov is known as the grandfather of A.I. Science Fiction, and yet, you don’t have to have much of an interest in robotics in order to appreciate many of his stories. One of the best examples of this would be Liar! A story that tackles how a robot, one which isn’t allowed to hurt humans, would try to circumvent peoples’ emotions in a situation in which their desire for career success and romance are on the line. As someone who has dealt with all sides of these affairs, Lair! Is one of those stories that reminded me that no matter what, I’m only human.


Who am I?

Life is a complex matter, and so sometimes you need a few aliens, werewolves, and dragons in order to make sense of it. From struggling with one’s career, to finding your identity, to finding forgiveness in myself, I’ve struggled with a lot in life, and these are all things that I tackle in my stories, because in addition to being entertaining, I also believe that what we read should also be insightful.


I wrote...

Cages of the Soul

By Daniel Robledo,

Book cover of Cages of the Soul

What is my book about?

A genre-bending collection of literary fantasy and horror, Cages of the Soul features 5 different stories, each centered around characters that are trapped. Some by social, some by physical, and some by psychological circumstances.

Army of None

By Paul Scharre,

Book cover of Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War

Paul Scharre explains the military use of autonomous weapons and AI-driven platforms in a book that’s accessible and comprehensive. He’s a former Army Ranger who helped write the US military’s guidelines for unmanned systems and military autonomy. I have other, more recent books about individual technologies; but Scharre’s is the only one that melds an insider’s understanding of lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs) with clear analysis of their pros and cons. He’s a skeptic of arms control but sees the need to reduce their downsides. My students like the book—even those deeply opposed to LAWs. Scharre’s explanations of autonomy and AI in military weapons are especially valuable for non-specialists. They are an antidote to all the loose AI terminology that just confuses everyone. 


Who am I?

Living in the American Embassy in Moscow as a teenager during the Cold War, I grew up keenly aware of the perils of global instability and nuclear war. While friends back home worried about how to buy a car or score a date, I wandered the streets of Moscow, often tailed by the KGB, hoping US nuclear missiles didn’t launch our way. So, I’ve always been interested in big questions of how to avoid wars, and how to end them. Since then, I’ve traveled the world, worked in both government and academe, advised senior national and international policymakers, and become an award-winning author.  


I wrote...

Power to the People: How Open Technological Innovation Is Arming Tomorrow's Terrorists

By Audrey Kurth Cronin,

Book cover of Power to the People: How Open Technological Innovation Is Arming Tomorrow's Terrorists

What is my book about?

Powerful market forces are driving lethal capacity into the hands of small groups, like private armies, militias, insurgencies, terrorists, and even individuals. Commercial drones, cyber weapons, autonomous weapons, and AI decision-making have disrupted key functions that used to be monopolized by states. 

This book explains exactly how that process works. Market forces drove earlier innovations, too—like dynamite and the Kalashnikov rifle, which ballooned insurgencies and terrorist campaigns. But the scale, scope, and political impact of today’s technologies are unprecedented. It used to require a professional army to mobilize, project power, and direct command-and-control. Now state armies are blindsided by their effects. Power to the People explains how common technologies endanger us, and how we can reduce their destabilizing risks without snuffing out innovation.

The Singularity Is Near

By Ray Kurzweil,

Book cover of The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology

If Ray hadn’t written The Singularity is Near, I would never have written my own books

It was after reading a news article on the release of the book all the way back in early 2005, that, at the tender age of 27 and for the first time in my life, I knew I had a subject that people would love to read about—and I also had a plot! 

Reading Ray’s description of being able to download “upgrades” to our bodies like we upgrade our computers, of immortality, and of molecular assemblers that could replicate anything we could want, sent my mind into a fevered trip through the Post-Human future.  

I read The Singularity is Near multiple times afterwards…it’s brilliant.  


Who am I?

I get to write about the most important moment in human history—and it’s quickly approaching. In fact—the advent of superhuman-level artificial intelligence will be the most important occurrence in the universe since the Big Bang, and it may even put that to shame. It’s a sci-fi writer's goldmine, but it’s also any intellectual’s dream topic. Since 2005, this topic has inspired me to write seven best-sellers, to give a TEDx (over 2 million views), to direct a short film, and to write the “bible” for a video game, all of it on the topic of A.I. and the technological singularity. 


I wrote...

Post-Human Omnibus: A Science Fiction Novel

By David Simpson,

Book cover of Post-Human Omnibus: A Science Fiction Novel

What is my book about?

What is reality? What if we could change the world with a thought? If we could climb between parallel worlds and alter our history, would we risk it? Or are we already living in a computer simulation controlled by our future selves? The Post-Human Omnibus is an adventure across space and time, through worlds full of wonder and peril.

Supersizing the Mind

By Andy Clark,

Book cover of Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension

There are many relevant books that preceded Andy Clark’s Supersizing the Mind and that followed it. For example, Raymond Gibbs’s Embodiment and Cognitive Science, Louise Barrett’s Beyond the Brain, and Lawrence Shapiro’s Embodied Cognition have made important contributions to the field’s understanding of the role that the body plays in cognition. But Andy Clark’s treatment of this topic stands out because of the range of disciplines that he includes in marshaling of evidence for embodied and extended cognition.

Unlike many of the proponents of embodied and extended cognition, Andy Clark relies heavily on state-of-the-art robotics for his evidence. As a philosopher, Clark’s first instinct is to use thought experiments to help “pump” the reader’s intuitions out of the ground like subterranean insights. A good thought experiment can actually help you realize that you have a different opinion about something than you thought you had. But Clark also clearly…


Who am I?

Over the past 25 years, I have spent half of my time as a professor of psychology at Cornell University and the second half as a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Merced. The interdisciplinary field of cognitive science invites a much wider range of methods, theories, and perspectives in studying the mind. My work employs dynamical systems theory, neural network simulations, eye-tracking, and other dense-sampling measures of cognitive processes to reveal how the brain, body, and environment cooperate to generate mental activity. In 2010, I was awarded the William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement from the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Honor Society. I have authored two books, The Continuity of Mind, and Who You Are.


I wrote...

Who You Are: The Science of Connectedness

By Michael J. Spivey,

Book cover of Who You Are: The Science of Connectedness

What is my book about?

In Who You Are, I draw primarily on cognitive neuroscience and psychology experiments to show that you are more than a brain, more than a brain-and-body, and more than all your assumptions about who you are.

Each chapter incrementally expands a common definition of the self. After first helping you discard your tacit assumptions about who you are, the next chapters describe research that reveals the back-and-forth flow of information between all the regions of the brain and the interaction between the brain and body. The scientific evidence supports a view of mind that is embodied and extended. In fact, you may already feel in your heart that something outside your body is actually part of you—a child, a place, a favorite book. Who You Are confirms this intuition with scientific findings.

The Plus One

By Sarah Archer,

Book cover of The Plus One

If sci-fi is not really your thing, worry not! Charming robots have crept into romance too and as a romance, The Plus One doesn’t disappoint. The robot love interest, Ethan, is everything a woman could look for—attentive, handsome, intelligent. But is he too good to be true? I loved how this book took a sci-fi trope and rewrote it for a romance reader, while still addressing some of the fundamental questions raised by AI, in this instance, not just “what is human?” but also “what is love?”


Who am I?

As an avid consumer of science fiction, I’ve always been a fan of artificial intelligence in all its forms. Whether it is HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey or Data from Star Trek robots and computer minds, as well as genetically engineered humans such as the replicants from Blade Runner have always fascinated me. So much so that my first science fiction series, The Nahx Invasions, tells the story of a race of artificially created humanoids—The Nahx. Often in sci-fi, the robots and other AI are either positioned as villains or sidekicks. I wanted to put the AI front and center as the heroes and the books I’ve selected do the same.


I wrote...

Zero Repeat Forever, Volume 1

By Gabrielle S. Prendergast,

Book cover of Zero Repeat Forever, Volume 1

What is my book about?

When an invasion of murderous creatures signals the end of the world, a wayward teenage girl must band together with a dangerous ally if she’s to have a chance at survival in this high-stakes, heart-wrenching story of destruction, hope, and freedom. He has no voice or name, only a rank, Eighth. He doesn’t know the details of the mission, only the directives that hum in his mind. Dart the humans. Leave them where they fall. His job is to protect his Offside. Let her do the shooting. Until a human kills her.


Sixteen-year-old Raven is at summer camp when the terrifying armored Nahx invade. Isolated in the wilderness, Raven and her fellow campers can only stay put. Await rescue. Raven doesn’t like feeling helpless, but what choice does she have? Then a Nahx kills her boyfriend. Thrown together in a violent, unfamiliar world, Eighth and Raven should feel only hate and fear. But when Raven is injured and Eighth deserts his unit, their lives depend on trusting each other.

Auxiliary

By Jon Richter,

Book cover of Auxiliary: London 2039

A noir Cyberpunk book set in the UK (which itself makes it distinctive). Great characters, crazy technology, and lots of drama make Auxiliary seriously gripping. If you like Cyberpunk, robotics/Artificial Intelligence, and dark, dystopian thrillers, you will love this! Just a word of warning, though, this is not for the faint of heart...

Who am I?

Between Blade Runner and The Terminator, I was hooked on Cyberpunk. Throw in some Ghost in the Shell and Black Mirror, and the obsession was complete. With the rise of Synthwave as a musical genre and as a retro-futuristic aesthetic, I had both the soundtrack and the visual cues to which I could write Cyberpunk. I also feel strongly about our increasing reliance on technology and the blurring lines between biology and technology. This is something I explore in my writing.


I wrote...

The Demon

By Tanweer Dar,

Book cover of The Demon

What is my book about?

A mysterious vigilante is stalking the neon-soaked streets at night. Taking on the most dangerous of criminals and saving lives, one night he rescues Charlie, a plucky young journalist, from a gang of masked men. Desperate to discover her enigmatic rescuer’s identity and motives, she learns of a dark, terrible past… 

Falter

By Bill McKibben,

Book cover of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

Arguably, Bill McKibben has been this nation’s preeminent environmentalist since 1989 when he published The End of Nature. Falter is his latest book and it is a numbing take on our species and how we have damaged the environment, perhaps, to the point of no return. On the other hand, McKibben is as much an activist as an environmentalist and as such he cannot and, so far at least, has not lost hope no matter how dire the straits.  


Who am I?

When I left Wisconsin and arrived for a position at the University of Alaska Anchorage, I was struck by the state’s nearly manic fear of low prices for the oil flowing from Prudhoe Bay through the Alaska (or North Slope) oil pipeline. Years later I returned to Wisconsin and quickly learned that there was relatively little interest in a pipeline that ran down the entire state in the manner of the Alaska pipeline. Only this pipeline carried synthetic crude made from natural asphalt hacked or melted out of the ground in Alberta, Canada. My interest in the environmental and political aspects of that pipeline set me on the path to a book about asphalt.


I wrote...

Asphalt: A History

By Kenneth O'Reilly,

Book cover of Asphalt: A History

What is my book about?

The asphalt on approximately 94 percent of paved roads in the United States has a chemical cousin in the oil sands (or tar sands) of Alberta, Canada. Oil companies are converting that natural asphalt (called bitumen in Canada) into synthetic crude oil ("syncrude") or diluting it with chemicals ("dilbit") so it can ship south via pipeline through Wisconsin and into storage tanks in Illinois. Refineries are the end destination. Gasoline is the end product. 

Global warming imagery has the earth bleeding co2 and consumed by God knows what. Wildfire and rising sea? War and famine? Pandemic now and pandemic from now on? Asphalt helped shape our environment in so many ways. Now, it might help destroy our environment in one simple way.

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