Rid skillfully catalogues the tension that has existed around 'cyber' — a word that 'refuses to be either a noun of prefix.' As he states in the preface, the book is his 'attempt to disentangle seven distinct cybernetic narratives.' Rid meets that challenge in an engaging and thoughtful manner ... Rise of the Machines belongs on the same bookshelf as P.W. Singer's now classic Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century.
Mr. Rid’s account is less a history of cybernetics as an academic discipline than a cultural history of cybernetics as a peculiarly modern myth ... He lovingly details the military applications of cybernetics, such as the largely automated air-defense system of the 1950s ... Mr. Rid’s fascinating survey of the oscillating hopes and fears expressed by the cybernetic mythos offers an implicit lesson. He is right to find many of its visions excessive—although this should be balanced against the value of bold dreams to inspire innovation.
The great service of Thomas Rid’s book is to highlight how we have been grappling with the relationship between man and machine for longer than we might have imagined. It also shows how the debate has been coloured by the full spectrum of emotions ... Rid is a fine chronicler of the debate, deftly recounting the hope, hype, and fears that have accompanied our thinking on automation ... a fascinating if slightly frustrating book, dazzling in parts but never quite adding up to an integrated whole.