Penguin 2023

ISBN 978-0141994260 

Reviewed by Ian Mowll

In this book, James Bridle explores the fascinating, uncanny, and multiple ways of existing on Earth. He says that we need to expand our definition of intelligence and personhood to include the non-human world, and to build a more harmonious relationship with it.

Bridle begins by tracing the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and its increasing capabilities. He then turns to the natural world, and shows how plants, animals, and ecosystems are all forms of intelligence, even if they are different from human intelligence.

One of the key themes of the book is the importance of relationships. Bridle says that we need to move away from anthropocentrism, which places the human at the centre of the universe, and towards a more relational ethic. This means recognising that we are all interconnected, and that we have a responsibility to all other beings, human and non-human alike.

Bridle also says that we need to rethink our relationship with technology. He sees AI as a potential force for good, but only if we develop it in a way that is aligned with our values and our understanding of the natural world.

Ways of Being is a challenging and thought-provoking book. It challenges mainstream assumptions about intelligence, personhood, and our place in the universe. It is also a hopeful book, offering a vision for a more sustainable and equitable future. What I liked about the book is that the author draws on a wide range of sources, including philosophy, science, art, and literature. This gives the book a richness and depth.

The central idea that life on Earth is interconnected will be familiar to most, if not all, GreenSpirit readers. However, I enjoyed the fact that this book is up to date, both drawing from recent science and including the important subject of artificial intelligence. My key takeaway is that the GreenSpirit view that we are all part of the living Earth is ever more important in its implications but that the way that we apply this truth needs to be continually updated based on new research and our changing world.

I warmly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in up to date science and wanting to explore our human contribution to the ecosystems of the Earth.