by Jason Diamond)
“Our great-grandparents loved killer robots. So do we. But why?” Daniel H. Wilson asks that question in the foreword of the collection of essays he edited, Robot Uprisings, which includes work by Cory Doctrow, Scott Sigler, Charles Yu, Robin Wasserman, and many others. It’s full of stories of the near-future, when the things we created, as Jeff Abbott puts it in his piece, “wanted to be just like us.”
Since we’ve seen Terminator 2: Judgement Day and The Matrix so many times, and some of the stories in the collection leave us worrying that we might be mere months away from begging our future robot overlords for mercy, there’s no better way to prepare for the upcoming robot uprising than to read as much about them as we can.
The Singularity is Near, Ray Kurzweil
Ray Kurzweil focuses on a couple of hypothetical situations here: when man and machine finally meet; when we’re a species humans won’t recognize, one that’s highly intelligent and built to last. It might sound like a science fiction novel, but with the data he lays out — and with the way humanity has progressed more and more rapidly in past centuries — Kurzweil’s theory is a difficult one to argue against. The robots might not rise up because we might just become the robots.
My Mother Was a Computer, N. Katherine Hayles
We might not realize it or necessarily understand it, but computer code is everywhere we look. It is a major part of our lives, and Hayles tries to make us better understand how we can make sense of it all.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
Can fiction writers be prophets? We asked this about William Gibson, but Philip K. Dick sort of begat the Neuromancer author (another title we could put on here, by the way), and there are more than a few folks who read his writing as liturgy. Plus, this book was adapted into the movie that gave us one of the most classic near-future worlds filled with robots ever: Blade Runner.
Flesh and Machines: How Robots Will Change Us, Rodney Brooks
In case you aren’t looking for something that lays out the still-evolving relationship between man and machine, Rodney A. Brooks, director of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, has some ideas he’d like to share with you about how close robots are to being just like us.
The Human Use Of Human Beings, Norbert Wiener
It’s interesting to read this book by one of the founders of the science of cybernetics, first published in the early 1950s. Wiener felt there was plenty of room for robots and humans to cooperate, and that robots could pick up the slack for boring jobs we didn’t want to do. Weirdly enough, when you see jobs being eliminated all the time, some of them making way for machines that can do the work cheaper and more efficiently than humans, you get the feeling that wasn’t what Wiener exactly wanted.
I, Robot, Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov is one of the absolute giants of the science fiction genre, and this is one of his best-known collections. Will Asimov’s ideas of what robots will do come true? Maybe. But the most interesting thing is that the near-future in which he set some of these stories is actually the present time in which we’re living.