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SCIENCE, SEX AND ROBOTS

An immensely absorbing and provocative book on the past, present, and future of robosexuality.

A curiously fascinating study on the evolution of personal-use robotics in contemporary society.

A researcher in human-computer interactions, Devlin’s (Computing/Goldsmiths, Univ. of London) interest in sex robots began after socially interacting with the innovative wizards behind their automation. She taps into the many conversations she’s had with fellow “robosexologists” and confirms that robotic intelligence is increasingly becoming “integrated into our everyday lives.” The author discusses the popularity of virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri and humorously surmises that for every command to play music, there is someone barking sexually lewd orders just to see what happens. “If it exists,” she writes, “people will try to corrupt it.” Though the closest commercially available product to real-life sex robots is the RealDoll, Devlin believes the future possibilities are as endless as the ethical complications they inspire. Meanwhile, readers will enjoy the history of artificial sexual stimulation, courtesy of the author’s brisk histories of early string and lever versions of robotic mechanisms seen in ancient Rome and Egypt, the origins of the female vibrator, and a humanoid prototype named Pepper among other thinking and teaching machines made for human companionship and development. Chronicling her interviews with a generous sampling of sex experts, Devlin also explores the titillating world of “teledildonics” (internet-synced smart sex toys) and techno-enhanced pleasure bots, and she works to debunk the industry’s myths and correct misconceptions. Throughout, she presents her material with intelligence, a clever wit, and a charming sense of humor. Her thoughts on traditional attitudes toward sex, emotional attachment, and misappropriation add clarity and perspective to a narrative that reads as more than a simple discourse on bridging robotic automation and artificial intelligence with adult novelty. Her visit to a sex doll factory provides a future-forward glance at the race to capitalize on this fascinating (and lucrative) niche market, which technologically and erotically bridges the gap between the artificial and the biological.

An immensely absorbing and provocative book on the past, present, and future of robosexuality.

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4729-5089-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Bloomsbury Sigma

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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