Mighty Robots: Mechanical Marvels That Fascinate and Frighten


126 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Index
ISBN 1-55037-929-1
DDC 629.8'92






Reviewed by Alex Curran

Alex Curran is a former member of both the National Advisory Board on
Science and Technology and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research
Council. He was chair of the Telecommunications Sectoral Advisory
Committee on Free Trade and the first recipien


For many years, robots have challenged our imaginations with dreams of
friendly mechanical slaves who would relieve us of routine tasks and
thereby leave us free to use our human faculties for creative
activities. For equally many years, the dreams have turned into
nightmares as robotic controls have run amok or as beings from outer
space try to dominate. The theme of aids versus threats has been
explored many times in books and in the theatre.

But the real world isn’t like that. We can, and do, use robots to
perform tasks that human beings either cannot or would rather not do.
These robots are highly specialized. They are not the intelligent
assistants of sci-fi.

There have been two streams of development—one in the world of
imagination, the second in the pragmatic field of specialized
engineering. In Mighty Robots, the author has woven the two streams so
as to illustrate the evolution of ideas and the long road we have
already travelled, as well as the very long road still ahead before we
encounter intelligent mechanical slaves. The world of the imagination is
represented by depictions ranging from Dr. Frankenstein’s creature to
the androids manufactured by Hollywood filmmakers. Some of the practical
applications covered in the book include robot explorers, robots in the
military, robots in the workplace, and the use of robots for leisure and

This is a book to read, and then to browse. Sci-fi aficionados will
find new clues as to how the world of robotics may evolve. Pragmatic
designers of hardware and software will find the weak components that
currently restrain development. Behaviourists will find the challenge of
how to teach intelligent mechanical slaves. Highly recommended.


Jones, David., “Mighty Robots: Mechanical Marvels That Fascinate and Frighten,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 13, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/23456.