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This cute book explains AI to children, without scary Terminators

Are robots just another animal on earth?

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Algorithm. Machine learning. Neural network. Singularity. These are the sorts of terms that make the idea of artificial intelligence tough to grok. But a new book by Matteo Loglio, cofounder of the product and interaction studio oio, aims to make AI accessible to children.

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Called Many Intelligences ($22), the cute children’s book for ages six and up—which Loglio both wrote and illustrated—walks through the gradient of human, animal, and robotic intelligence. It explains how thinking generally comes from brains but still exists in starfish and even plants (both of which lack gray matter).

[Image: courtesy Corraini Edizioni]
Eventually, it reaches the topic of our machines, implying that the basic sensory intelligence of a smart toaster might not be quite so different from some of the simplest life on earth.

Along the way, the book does make one claim that parents might want to flag on a read-along, that collaboration is a uniquely human trait. In fact, modern science is revealing that there’s strong evidence of thoughtful animal collaboration across the planet. Animal thinking is often shoehorned as instinctual, while human thinking is championed as something greater. In fact, our inability to understand animal intelligence may often be due to our own methodological shortcomings. What we see as species differences could actually be born from our own human prejudice.

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That disclaimer aside, the book ultimately concludes that there may be a day when we give robots similar rights to human beings, and that machines may, in fact, grow to be smarter than us. It’s the sort of future that can make your stomach churn, no thanks to film franchises such as The Terminator, which imply any more intelligent robotic sentience will automatically attempt to kill us. But in Loglio’s narrative, that future doesn’t seem too bleak. Many Intelligences is a proper bedtime story for AI, not another nightmare that will keep your child up at night.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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