Machines of Loving Grace

Brief description

Robots are poised to transform today's society as completely as the Internet did twenty years ago. Pulitzer prize-winning New York Times science writer John Markoff argues that we must decide to design ourselves into our future, or risk being excluded from it altogether.

In the past decade, Google introduced us to driverless cars; Apple debuted Siri, a personal assistant that we keep in our pockets; and an Internet of Things connected the smaller tasks of everyday life to the farthest reaches of the Web. Robots have become an integral part of society on the battlefield and the road; in business, education, and health care. Cheap sensors and powerful computers will ensure that in the coming years, these robots will act on their own. This new era offers the promise of immensely powerful machines, but it also reframes a question first raised more than half a century ago, when the intelligent machine was born. Will we control these systems, or will they control us? (Source)

Why read this

If you look into the future, questioning how the world might look like "tomorrow" and how do you stay relevant - this book is for you. You don't need to be a techie to dive through beautifully narrated stories on how technologies we take for granted today came to life. You will find some great philosophical debates, economic development scenarios and inspiring tales about engineers and researchers across America, from 40-50s of 20th century to present days. Consider it a basic course of tech literacy.  

My experience

This book was suggested to me by a distant mentor and a very inspiring human being - Adam Cheyer. I was traveling to USA, after the China Hacker Trip, and was considering a possible internship in the Valley, before I figure out what's next for me. Last fall was a bit of a trouble time for my career compass and Qodemo was going down.

I asked Adam to suggest some reading material so I can better understand - an Artificial Intelligence company he co-founded after being the VP of engineering and co-founder of SIRI (sold to Apple). I did not tell him immediately but I wanted badly to join as an intern for a few weeks. We had some ideas at Qodemo, related to a personal assistant for hardware documentation, so the internship was a very curious adventure for me.

I did not get the VIV internship as I moved back to China for a small education project and also, I don't know if I had much to offer them at that point. VIV was still in stealth mode. The book, however turned to be a true revelation. Browsing all these stories that gave birth to most of the tech we use today was more of a treasure hunt experience than a simple read. I had to put it down several times and research for related technologies and people mentioned inside. It's like a documentary you can pause, reflect on and maybe even reach the characters with a tweet or Facebook message. Give it a try, it's a valuable read.

From the author