Bots and Beasts

Bots and Beasts: What Makes Machines, Animals, and People Smart? is published by MIT Press in 2021.


Magpies can recognize themselves in mirrors and octopuses can open jars to get at food. An IBM computer won a debate with people about the costs and benefits of artificial intelligence, and cars are beginning to drive themselves. How do computers and animals measure up to the minds of people? 

Human intelligence is more than IQ thanks to many features such as decision making, learning, and creating.  These features generate report cards for evaluating smart computers and animals. The ability to learn how to learn is just one of the advantages that people have over current bots and beasts. Consciousness only began when animals such as fish developed brains large enough to combine thoughts. Artificial intelligence is advancing but still falls short of the human capacities for consciousness, emotion, and creativity. These conclusions have important implications for the moral treatment of animals and intelligent computers. 

This book is the first systematic comparison of intelligence across machines, humans, and other animals. It draws on philosophy for a method of attributing mental capacities to nonhumans and for an approach to ethics based on vital needs. Psychology and neuroscience furnish the mechanisms that support intelligence. The assessment of limitations in current approaches to AI provides a clear blueprint for future research to approximate human-level intelligence. Policies are recommended to ensure that such developments promote the satisfaction of human needs.

Policy Recommendations (from ch. 8)

Supplement to ch. 8: Other AI principles

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Bibliography in APA format

Updated Oct. 18, 2021.

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