With such an alarmist title, Martin Ford’s The Rise Of The Robots prepares the reader for what should be, at the very least, a bracing experience. What we get, however, is something that doesn’t quite succeed in fulfilling that objective.
Scrupulously researched and comprehensive in its scope, The Rise Of The Robots can at times come across as a little dry, loaded as it is with talk of GDP, algorithms, and scientific studies. But there are a few precious moments where the book steers above the academic-speak. One chillingly ominous passage looks at how society is in danger of reverting to feudalism, with a plutocratic elite enjoying the fruits of automated labour, and the vast bulk of humanity being rendered redundant. Sprinkled throughout the text are other jaw-dropping moments of horror, which, unfortunately, are never really sustained for any great length, and are quickly passed over in in favour of prolonged data analysis.
The danger in this sort of pacing is that readers simply switch off. And for a book with clearly middle-brow pretensions this decision to overload readers with information appears baffling. The even greater pity is that Ford clearly has the ability to grab the reader’s attention with bracingly brisk prose. But alas this gift is under-utilised, and what we are left with is a book that illuminates the subject in a cold light rather than a red-hot flame. Chris Prindiville
‘The Rise Of The Robots’ is available in paperback through OneWorld / Bloomsbury RRP $17.99.