You Look Like a Thing and I Love You by Janelle Shane

This book has revolutionized my understanding of Artificial Intelligence. Complete with cute drawings and hilarious AI-created lists this book is perfect for anyone concerned that Robot Overlords are in our near future.


“You look like a thing and I love you” is one of the best pickup lines ever…according to an artificial intelligence trained by the scientist Janelle Shane, creator of the popular blog AI Weirdness. Shane creates silly AIs that learn how to name colors of paint, create the best recipes, and even flirt (badly) with humans—all to understand the technology that governs so much of our human lives.

We rely on AI every day, trusting it for matters both big and small, from unlocking our phones to hospital care. But how smart is AI really…? Shane delivers the answer to every AI question you’ve ever asked, and some you definitely haven’t—such as: How can a computer design the perfect sandwich? What does robot-generated Harry Potter fan fiction sound like? And is the world’s best Halloween costume really “vampire hog bride”?

In this smart, often hilarious introduction to the most interesting science of our time, Shane shows how these machines learn, fail, and adapt—and how they reflect both the best and worst of humanity. from Storygraph

You Look Like a Thing and I Love You cover is bright green and has a cube with eyes, legs and arms. They cube is holding a martini glass and a yellow heart.


I love robots. Well, I suppose I love the idea of robots. I am extremely attached to my vacuum robot, who I call Monk. Monk is a helpful little guy and well intentioned although not as detailed oriented as the character for which he was named. Adrian Monk would never leave the corners full of cat hair.

I also hate progress that tries to replace people and does a poor job. Hello self-check out stations. These are the bane of my existence. I have only once (I wrote it down in my dairy it was so momentous) managed to check out at one without setting off an alert that called the person for help. I’m not sure what is the worst part but I certainly do not enjoy all that time to look at myself in their fish-eye lens camera while I curse the machine.

If robots are going to become a real daily presence in my future, I’m going to need more vacuum robots and less self-check out stations. Janelle Shane’s book, You Look Like a Thing and I Love You, helped me understand how AI works, what functions it could be used for, and the limitations of its abilities.

Janelle Shane is the author of AI Weirdness, a truly great site. If you take nothing else from my post at all, please check out her Botober drawing prompts which can be found here. Shane has a PhD in engineering and an MS in physics and her way of explaining AI is a beautiful mixture of depth and sustained fascination. She excels at explaining the basics to someone like me that really thought we were on the cusp of living in the matrix.

My only negative thoughts while reading this book is that there were a few times the information felt repetitive. Shane is trying to show us the many, many, ways that AI is difficult to apply to everyday life. Is the AI going to misunderstand the assignment? Is the AI going to misinterpret the data set? Or, will the AI just see a Giraffe in everything it does? Shane weaves enough funny moments through to alleviate any boredom but there were chapters that felt interchangeable. I have a suspicion, though, that this repetition is more because of my lack of knowledge and, with some understanding of the nuance involved, I would be able to see the difference.

What I did learn was that AI application is best if it is limited, which sadly means the self-driving car is a long way away. I also learned that, in direct contradiction to Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers, AIs are not better than humans at predicting recidivism. Shane explains that, since the AI is taught by humans, the errors and racial biases are not only present in their learning but can be emphasized. If any of you are applying for new jobs, the author states that to pass the AI screeners you can add targetted words like “Harvard” and “Cricket” and the like to your resume in white ink so that the AI will give your resume a green light.


I am counting this as an Orilium reading. It is a standalone and I didn’t see anything in the rules to prohibit reading nonfiction.

Tell me, please! Are you looking forward to more AI in your life?


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