A review of Robopocalypse, by Daniel H. Wilson
@@@@ (4 out of 5)
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.
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.