Most of our books deal with philosophy, but you may have noticed that one of them seems a bit different. “According to Phil: A Young Thinker’s Guide to Robots” does march off in a slightly different direction. In honour of his sixth birthday, I thought I’d chat a bit about how our friend Phil came to be.
Our parent company Enable Education has been heavily involved with FIRST robotics competitions for the past few years. FIRST, and other companies that support this wonderful organization, have become some of our clients, and we’ve enjoyed working with them. For anyone not familiar with FIRST, it runs programs for young innovators aged 7 and up. Year after year, we’ve been impressed by the enthusiasm, the graciousness, and the creativity of FIRST participants.
A few years ago, at the FIRST world championships in Atlanta, we were approached by a lot of parents and teachers looking for resources to teach their kids basic information about robots. I think a lot of these parents were hoping to learn more about robots themselves. Well, philosophers like me love robots (hey, we’re curious about everything). Robots make us think about what makes us human. Robots make us think about how language works. Robots make us think about how thinking works. I couldn’t help myself. I wrote a little booklet about philosophy and robots, which grew and grew, and this year, with the help of our very talented illustrator Mark Hughes, it turned into a book.
“According to Phil” is for anyone who is curious about robots. It doesn’t require any sort of background in engineering or computer programming, and it’s actually quite fun. I have to say that Phil, the robot narrator, is extraordinarily cute. The book gives a history of robotics (which is a lot longer than most people think), it outlines how robots actually think and work, and it gives people a chance to do activities about robots.
Since the book was published, Phil has appeared in puppet form, in a series of fun information videos, as one of the stars of an animated short, and he’s now part of our gaming app, Wiseland.
Happy birthday Phil!