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Machines of Loving Grace by John Markoff : Book Review

I came across this book at Kinokuniya and decided to purchase the audio book. What caught my eye and interest was the subtitle “The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots”. As an economist and a researcher, I am very interested to know more about the future state of the economy and society as we build better artificial intelligence. This is a theme I previously touched on in my earlier book reviews The AI Economy & Data for the People.

The book was written with only two keywords in mind – Artificial Intelligence and Intelligence Augmented. The first keyword refers to the creation of intelligence similar to that of humans which is capable of taking over tasks done by them, while the second describes the enhancement of human capabilities, like what computers and smartphones do.

John Markoff, who is a reporter at New York Times and currently writes for its science section, did a lot of research for this book. In it, he covers many areas of artificial intelligence research like symbolic AI vs connectionism, robotics, driverless cars etc. He also provides a rich history of the people, past and present, active in these different areas – who are the prominent key researchers and leading thought leaders – turning the whole book into a who’s who.

As a researcher in artificial intelligence, it is always good to revisit the history, to understand the thought processes of these leaders and from there extrapolate out to where we are going next and perhaps bring to our attention what some of the current weaknesses we face in the research and engineering front of artificial intelligence are. It is a great book for anyone in this field who would like a list of the thought leaders in the different areas of artificial intelligence and wishes to learn more about whether we are going down the path of artificial intelligence or intelligence augmented.


The audio book opened my horizon wider to how the previous researchers and thought leaders see where artificial intelligence research should be and definitely gave me more material to research on. My rating is 4.5 out of 5 stars for it.


  • Koo is an experienced Data Scientist/Analytics Instructor with an MBA degree & 13+ years of relevant experience. He is a strong and passionate advocate of Data Science & Artificial Intelligence, hoping more people, both business and talents, get on the bandwagon to derive tremendous value from DS/AI. He has vast experience in data management and governance, machine learning/statistical modeling, business intelligence and text analytics. He co-founded DataScience.Sg, an interest group on Data Science in Nov 2013, growing it to more than 5000 members within 36 months and was the former Chairman of Working Committee, Singapore SAS User Group. Mr Koo is also an experienced educator, chief mentor in SAS-IDA Data Scientist Consultant Programme, instructor at NUS SCALE and SMU Academy and Senior Adjunct Faculty at SUSS. He has conducted analytics-related training to numerous professionals, supervised Masters students’ analytics project and was previously and adjunct faculty of SMU. He was also a facilitator for IDA Data Science MOOC Initiative.

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