If you’re imagining ranks of humanoid robots marching in lockstep as they trample on humanity and all else that we’ve created, you’re on the wrong track. This is a science fiction novel, to be sure, and as the title suggests it depicts an apocalyptic future, but it’s a future with a difference. This is a treatment of robots and automation from an entirely different perspective. It’s engaging. And it’s very, very scary.
Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
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Daniel H. Wilson is the author of this novel and of an earlier book, How to Survive a Robot Uprising: Tips on Defending Yourself Against the Coming Rebellion. He comes to his subject matter armed with a Ph.D. in Robotics from Carnegie-Mellon University, frequently cited as the nation’s leader in robotics and artificial intelligence. The speculation in this novel is grounded in a genuine understanding of the world of automata and the possible futures they may create for us.
The book is structured as an oral history of sorts, a succession of vignettes from varying points of view about the origins and the progression of the “New War” between “Rob” and the human race. You can read this book as a straightforward sci-fi thriller — fodder for Hollywood, which indeed will be churning out a Steven Spielberg film of the novel in a year or two. However, it’s also a thought-provoking portrait of what could conceivably happen a few decades down the road when the relentless advance of science and technology takes us to a profound discontinuity: the point at which artificial intelligence outstrips human intelligence. There are very, very smart people who have done a lot of thinking about this coming event. Some see the upside. Not everyone, though. Apparently, not Daniel H. Wilson. And not I.
For further reading
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- The ultimate guide to the all-time best science fiction novels;
- Great sci-fi novels reviewed: my top 10 (plus dozens of runners-up);
- Two dozen good books about artificial intelligence reviewed here; and
- The top 10 dystopian novels reviewed here (plus dozens of others).
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