Ways of being Animals, plants, machines : the search for a planetary intelligence

James Bridle

Book - 2022

"Artist, technologist, and philosopher James Bridle's Ways of Being is a brilliant, searching exploration of different kinds of intelligence--plant, animal, human, artificial--and how they transform our understanding of humans' place in the cosmos"--

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2nd Floor 153.9/Bridle Due Jun 16, 2023
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New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2022.
First American edition
Item Description
"Originally published in 2022 by Allen Lane, Great Britain, as Ways of being : beyond human intelligence."
Physical Description
xiv, 364 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 313-352) and index.
Main Author
James Bridle (author)
  • Introduction: More than human
  • Thinking otherwise
  • Wood wide webs
  • The thicket of life
  • Seeing like a planet
  • Talking to strangers
  • Non-binary machines
  • Getting random
  • Solidarity
  • The Internet of animals
  • Conclusion: Down on the metal farm.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

A human-centric notion of intelligence takes the backseat in this fascinating survey from artist Bridle (New Dark Age). Intelligence, he writes, "is not something to be tested, but something to be recognized, in all the multiple forms that it takes." To that end, he notes that plants have the "ability... to remember" and self-driving cars exhibit knowledge with their neural networks and learning patterns. Indeed, one of the author's key insights is the way momentous advances in technology can lead to a better understanding of the "more-than-human world." In a prime example, the rise of the internet and the corresponding notion of network theory made possible the discovery of how such networks operate "in the real world," namely in the symbiotic relationships that connect fungi and plant roots in the forest. Bridle makes a solid case for his argument that "everything is intelligent" and that all life on Earth is interconnected, and his notion that intelligence is "one among many ways of being in the world" is well reasoned and convincing. This enlightening account will give readers a new perspective on their place in the world. Agent: Antony Topping, Greene & Heaton (U.K.). (June)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Kirkus Book Review

How intelligence works beyond the human world and why it matters. Bridle, an artist and philosopher with a keen interest in the impact of technology on contemporary life, explores the ways in which a broader and more accurate understanding of rationality must force us to reevaluate assumptions about the preeminence of humanity. In his survey of the intelligence of plants, animals, and artificial intelligence, he synthesizes an impressive range of contemporary scientific research while also drawing on Indigenous and non-Western ways of knowing that have long recognized the significance of nonhuman modes of thinking. Bridle champions a philosophical reorientation that would dislodge anthropocentrism in favor of an ethic of relationality, which encourages a responsibility to the teeming subjectivity of our environments. This is an accessible but also technically precise book, and it makes a remarkably compelling case for the universality of reason, the benefits to be reaped by acknowledging it, and the urgent need to do so given the reality of looming ecological collapse. "By expanding our definition of intelligence, and the chorus of minds which manifest it," writes the author, "we might allow our own intelligence to flower into new forms and new emergent ways of being and relating. The admittance of general, universal, active intelligence is a necessary part of our vital re-entanglement with the more-than-human world." Among the most revelatory of the chapters are those in which Bridle describes the intelligence of animals such as octopuses, baboons, and bees--and, even more startlingly, of various plants, whose sophisticated communication networks and mnemonic abilities have just begun to be fathomed by scientists. (For further reading on plant intelligence and connection, check out Suzanne Simard's Finding the Mother Tree and Merlin Sheldrake's Entangled Life.) Intriguingly, Bridle also argues for the personhood of AI technologies and points to distributed computer networks as models for a more relational, egalitarian politics. A provocative, profoundly insightful consideration of forms of reason and their relevance to our shared future. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.