Monday, June 13, 2011

Daniel H. Wilson shows some circuit pity in Robopocalypse

If you went into a big bookstore or happened to take public transit last week, you probably couldn't miss the giant posters for Daniel H. Wilson's Robopocalypse. Yes, it's about robots and a sort-of apocalypse, but it's also about how we view and understand robots, something Wilson is very concerned about. I talked to Wilson last week, and you can read my profile of the American author in today's National Post or on The Afterword. Here's a peak:
It isn’t that the robots are coming, it’s that they’ve already arrived. That’s the starting point for Daniel H. Wilson’s much-hyped new novel Robopocalypse, and all you have to do is look around an office, living room or public washroom to see that it’s true. 
Wilson has a PhD in robotics from the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute and his 2005 non-fiction guide How to Survive a Robot Uprising is used in introductory robotics classes in U.S. universities. Wilson’s background brings a strange realism to the book, and although he says he purposefully followed the conventions of the traditional robot uprising plot, the ethical nuance of the novel is much deeper than robots bad, humans good. 
But Robopocalypse, which was optioned by Dreamworks for director Steven Spielberg before it was even finished, does play on our fear of machines. The story is set no more than a decade in the future, and at the centre of it all is Archos, a powerful artificial intelligence that orchestrates the entire uprising from the depths of a radioactive cavern in Alaska. The novel begins after the war is over, when a leader of the human resistance discovers a black box on the war, filled with accounts of the various heroes. The transcripts of these stories take us back to the pre-war world, and then lay out the uprising as it unfolded.

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