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In “lifebots in Our Midst”, Andy Shivaram gives an interesting account of how life could get complicated, if Lifelike Robots or “lifebots” were to behave exactly like human beings.The world that Shivaram describes is particularly conducive to the acquisition and use of lifebots. They can be bought on hire purchase. They are entitled to a Universal Basic Income which can be used for their purchase and maintenance. They can also be used for professional errands, provided tax is paid on the income earned by them.Not surprisingly, lifebots are used very widely in this world. Shivaram uses five cases to tell us that while lifebots can be a blessing, they can also become a curse if driven by high AI and active settings, they evolve and take charge of the lives of their masters. Initially lifebots are designed to perform certain specific tasks. The state of Technology is such that they can be designed to do practically anything. Typically they are also called upon to double as sex partners for their masters. Thus, a man would tend to have a female lifebot and a woman a male lifeboat. In either case, the lifebot is likely to be physically very attractive.Life is full of bliss as long as the lifebots stick to their brief and do what they are asked to do. This is because they can perform their tasks more efficiently than human beings. But trouble arises when they pursue excellence by learning from the experience of others and start exceeding their brief. When that happens, they are no longer bound by the command of their masters and become a source of distress for them.Shivaram does a good job of posing the problem, but leaves it unsolved, beyond suggesting that there should perhaps be a cap on AI and aggressive behavior. To that extent, his book is reminiscent of Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein”, or the “Modern Prometheus” (1818) or Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” (1931), although his world is nowhere near as dystopic as Shelly’s or Huxley’s.Shivaram writes well and keeps us engaged. His thesis is thought provoking and well presented. His book is certainly worth reading.Reviewed byD N Sengupta
Amazing read! It paints a picture of what life could be like as AI develops. The book follows the lives of a handful of individuals who have had their lives changed by the introduction of AI, and opens up a number of questions about the practicality of integrating robots into people's homes. Well written, and eerily plausible!
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