Bots and Beasts

Bots and Beasts

What Makes Machines, Animals, and People Smart?

By Paul Thagard

An expert on mind considers how animals and smart machines measure up to human intelligence.





An expert on mind considers how animals and smart machines measure up to human intelligence.

Octopuses can open jars to get food, and chimpanzees can plan for the future. An IBM computer named Watson won on Jeopardy! and Alexa knows our favorite songs. But do animals and smart machines really have intelligence comparable to that of humans? In Bots and Beasts, Paul Thagard looks at how computers (“bots”) and animals measure up to the minds of people, offering the first systematic comparison of intelligence across machines, animals, and humans.

Thagard explains that human intelligence is more than IQ and encompasses such features as problem solving, decision making, and creativity. He uses a checklist of twenty characteristics of human intelligence to evaluate the smartest machines—including Watson, AlphaZero, virtual assistants, and self-driving cars—and the most intelligent animals—including octopuses, dogs, dolphins, bees, and chimpanzees. Neither a romantic enthusiast for nonhuman intelligence nor a skeptical killjoy, Thagard offers a clear assessment. He discusses hotly debated issues about animal intelligence concerning bacterial consciousness, fish pain, and dog jealousy. He evaluates the plausibility of achieving human-level artificial intelligence and considers ethical and policy issues. A full appreciation of human minds reveals that current bots and beasts fall far short of human capabilities.


$29.95 T ISBN: 9780262045940 312 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 25


  • “Paul Thagard's Bots and Beasts makes a significant contribution to cognitive science and public policy by addressing how to assess the many aspects of intelligence and make ethical choices that respect the crucial needs of humans and animals. The book's comprehensive inventory of intelligent features and mechanisms can be used to compare intelligence across humans, animals, and machines. I recommend this book to AI researchers and practitioners, cognitive scientists, policymakers, corporate leaders, animal lovers, and anyone interested in intelligence and the world's future.”

    Erik T. Mueller

    Senior Director of Machine Learning Engineering, Capital One