The Winding Road to the Robotic Future

What emerges in "Almost Human" is a fascinating, frustrating, sad story. The Carnegie-Mellon researchers have big dreams. They work incredibly hard. But the deeper Mr. Gutkind immerses himself in their projects, the more he realizes that they aren't rolling from one triumph to another. Instead, their labs seem cursed by failure. […]

Early chapters are filled with humanizing anecdotes about each researcherand they are a zany bunch. One man subsisted for a time on Cheerios, chocolate milk and Budweiser. Another claimed to have wrestled a gorilla on a dare. Each set of quirks sets the stage for the researcher to explain why his work could someday change the world. […]

Mr. Gutkind assures us in his preface that the future of robotic technology is in good hands. He likes the Carnegie-Mellon researchers. He quickly dismisses the idea of a robot uprising as science-fiction nonsense. On that score, he's almost certainly right. – George Anders