Science fiction author and real-life roboticist Daniel H. Wilson has a new novel hitting shelves on Tuesday: Robogenesis – a sequel to his impressive novel debut, Robopocalypse, a novel described by Stephen King as “terrific, page-turning fun” that was optioned for a movie adaptation by Steven Spielberg before it was even published.
In Robopocalypse, an artificial intelligence named Archos infects he computer networks of the world and turns the robots and other devices of a technologically-dependent society against its human masters. The country side offers some protection to those who manage to survive the opening salvo of the war, but only if they can make it there across a fiery, war-torn landscape riddled with weapons specially designed by a superior intelligence to eliminate human life in the quickest way possible. With mankind’s greatest innovation – technology – turned against it, is it even possible to wage a counter-strike against this inhuman foe? A handful of survivors will answer that question, and decide the fate of humanity in the process.
While I can’t reveal them here – or rather, I won’t – Robopocalypse offered some major surprised in the closing chapters, including the introduction of unexpected allies who have their own reasons to wage war against Archos. Their arrival was accompanied by major questions: Who were they and what would they want after the war – or if the war – came to an end? How would this shape the post-Archos world (presuming that there will be a Post-Archos world)?
Robogenesis picks up after the destruction of Archos as the book’s heroes try to rebuild a new civilization redefined by a new, warier relationship with technology. Humanity must reconcile itself to the idea that it isn’t alone in this world any longer: There are non-human intelligences on planet Earth, now, and understanding how to live alongside this new presence may be difficult in the aftermath of the robopocalypse. Unfortunately, they may not have very much time to do so: There are signs that Archos – or something like Archos – is back and ready to finish the job it started. Is humanity ready for round two?
Robopocalypse really struck a nerve with me when I read it back in 2011: Portable digital devices, social media and other fruits of the digital revolution were playing more of a role in my life every day, and as I benefitted from that here stateside, I saw the same technology being used with ruthless efficiency on battlefields around the world. Back then I wondered if a robotic revolution was that far out of the question. Now, I am pretty sure it’s inevitable. Count me among that small minority who thinks that the Singularity may spell the end of humanity.
Have we already gone past the point of no return and are even now engineering the means of our own destruction? Will we be able to pull back before its too late? Books like Robopocalypse and Robogenesis offer some possible answers, if only we’ll pay them heed.