Many of these concerns overlap with present controversies regarding AI in general, but in this realm, tied so closely with the most profound manifestations of human intimacy, they feel more personal and controversial. Perhaps as a result, Devlin has a self-admitted tendency at times to slip into somewhat heavy-handed feminist polemics, which can overshadow or obscure possible alternative interpretations to some questions — it’s arguable whether the “Blade Runner” films have “a woman problem,” for example, or whether the prevalence of sexbots with idealized and identifiably feminine aesthetics is solely a result of “male objectification.”

Informed by her background as a computer scientist, Devlin provides excellent nuts-and-bolts technical explanations of the fundamentals of machine learning, neural networks, and language processing that provide the necessary foundation for her explorations of the subject, whose sometimes sensitive nature is eased by her sly sense of humor. Describing how an online news source reported on one of her conference talks with the headline “Sex robots could be used in old people’s homes, says expert,” she also notes, “They have also mis-captioned a photo of a sex robot with my name and credentials,” adding that “I am strangely delighted by this.”