Webb Keane

Animals, Robots, Gods

Animals, Robots, Gods

Adventures in the Moral Imagination


We have always lived with ethically significant others, whether they are the pets we keep, the gods we believe in or the machines we are endowing with life. How should we treat them as our world changes?

In Animals, Robots, Gods, acclaimed anthropologist Webb Keane provides a new vision of ethics, defined less by our minds, religion or society, and more by our interactions with those around us. Drawing on ground-breaking research by fieldworkers around the world, he explores the underpinnings of our moral universe. Along the way we investigate the ethical dilemmas of South Asian animal rights activists, Balinese cockfighters, Japanese robot fanciers - even macho cowboys. We meet a hunter in the Yukon who explains his prey generously gives itself up to him; a cancer sufferer in Thailand who sees his tumour as a reincarnated ox; a computer that gets you to confess your anxieties as if you were on the psychiatrist's couch.

With charm, wit and insight, Keane offers us a better understanding of our doubts and certainties, showing how centuries of conversations between us and non-humans inform our conceptions of morality, and will continue to guide us in the age of AI and beyond.