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Robot wars Robot The Future of Flesh and Machines Rodney A Brooks 272pp Penguin It may appear rather precocious for a field of study that is less than 50 years old to pride itself on having a classical form and non-classical variants Yet this is how those at the cutting edge of artificial intelligence AI describe the theoretical diversity that currently characterises their discipline The classical form - which has also been dubbed GOFAI Good Old Fashioned AI - subscribed to a rather idealised view of intelligence as a capacity for abstract problem-solving In the 1980s however a growing number of researchers began to promote a different approach in which more down-to-earth capacities such as being able to find your way from A to B without bumping into things were also valued One of the pioneers of this new approach to AI was a dynamic Australian called Rodney Brooks Brooks is now director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT and his papers are regarded by many as landmarks Such lofty heights must have seemed rather distant two decades ago when Brooks first began to question the tenets of GOFAI At that time his ideas were regarded as distinctly crazy When Brooks presented what has since become his most cited paper at the Second International Symposium of Robotics Research in 1985 the chair of the conference whispered to a col league that this young man was surely throwing away his career In the first few chapters of Robot Brooks recounts the story of his journey from young Turk to leading light intertwined as it is with the history of the new AI Brooks has shaped the field in many ways Not only has he played a part in many technological developments from the Sojourner robot that Nasa sent to Mars to the robotic doll My Real Baby but the list of graduate students who have passed through his lab reads like
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