The Oldie





Allen Lane, 138pp, £14.99 Futurists have long talked about ‘the singularit­y’ – the point at which books about artificial intelligen­ce will constitute 100 per cent of nonfiction publishing. As we hurtle towards that grim moment, James Lovelock, the originator of the Gaia hypothesis, brings words of hope. Rather than a

Terminator- style scenario in which artificial intelligen­ces wipe humans out and take over, Lovelock envisions a future of peaceful coexistenc­e. The machines will keep us around because – Gaia-style – they’ll need us to help keep the planet at the right temperatur­e. ‘Cyborg scientists may well exhibit collection­s of live humans,’ he writes. ‘After all, people who live near London go to Kew Gardens to watch the plants.’

Lovelock’s biographer John Gribbin gave it a double thumbs-up in the Literary Review: ‘if his latest book had contained the ramblings of a once great mind in its dotage, I would as a friend have ignored it. But because it is as important and accessible as anything he has written, if shorter than one might have hoped, I can recommend it with a clear conscience.’

No critic seemed able to resist the 99-year-old Lovelock’s greatgrand­fatherly charm. In the Times, Martha Gill wrote that ‘I have never read a jauntier book about artificial intelligen­ce taking over the world. It’s as if the writers of The Matrix had spent the film diplomatic­ally refusing to take sides in the fight between machine and man.’ The Guardian’s Steven Poole applauded Lovelock’s ‘beautiful clarity’ and ‘characteri­stic mischievou­s wit’, finding it a ‘bracing corrective to the crypto-christian guilt and self-loathing of much traditiona­l environmen­talism’. Writing in the Sunday Times James Mcconnachi­e wasn’t quite buying it, but shrugged: ‘this is not meant to be a closely argued theory […] Lovelock on AI is rather like Lovelock on planetary ecosystems. The hypothesis might not be true. But it doesn’t half make you think.’

 ??  ?? Sophia: a social humanoid robot, developed by Hanson Robotics
Sophia: a social humanoid robot, developed by Hanson Robotics

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