Tag Archives: robot

The Radical Reboot Robot

Ten. Nine. This is it. Seven. David grabs my hand. Five. He’s holding my hand. Three. Strange. One. Our work is complete. The months spent finding the best neural widgets to build the ultimate AI and the painstaking training of Omega ended with that simple countdown. A palpable sense of collective relief ripples around the room and I’m fully prepared to accept whatever comes next. I hope.

David is still holding my hand and grinning. There’s something about the tilt of his head and the sparkle in his eyes that betray more than a colleague’s happiness at a job well done. I glance down at our hands. He’s hairy. I hadn’t noticed before. I follow his hairy skin all the way up his arm, across his shoulder and up his neck to his face. He sees me looking and I distract him by pointing to the large screen displaying the data-processing server farms of the world. The tiny blue dot sitting next to the largest of the red lights, that’s us. That’s Omega, busy working out the ultimate way to reduce the planet’s energy consumption to its bare minimum. Connected to each and every other AI and their server farms, Omega will decide and deploy the solution. Determining the fate of the planet and all who inhabit her fragile shell.

David runs his fingers along the inside of my palm. It’s nice. It’s unexpected, but nice. Someone complains that the kettle won’t boil and someone else shouts that the communications network is down. Ping — the lab lights go out at the same time as the red lights on the display disappear. Someone screams and then there’s a stifling hush, broken only by one person sobbing. David stops stroking the inside of my hand and in the silence of a hundred colleagues the familiar hum of the air-conditioning ends. My palm is damp, clammy with sweat.

The doors from the lab to the server farm slide open. Sunlight streams in through the large open doors at the far end, from the greenhouse that uses the controlled heat of the servers to grow food. Surely this breach will damage its delicate atmosphere?

David pulls me away from the sobbing and into the sunlight. We walk hand-in-hand through one farm and into the stillness of the other. Robots stand motionless as if death has arrived, which is a sharp contrast to the wonderful and life-affirming tang of tomatoes growing on the vine and the citric essence of oranges on the trees.

‘Omega must have killed all the server farms, including its own,’ he says, ‘giving us life-lines instead of product-lines.’

I pick a tomato and bite through its skin, releasing pips and juices into my mouth.

With a click, the glass panels open and a cool wind blows across my face. I pluck an apple and point to the path outside. ‘Shall we?’

‘No,’ he replies. ‘Let’s stay where there’s food and we’re safe.’

I sit down and wait for whatever comes next.


Story first published on Medium as Radical Reboot

Photo credit: Paul VanDerWerf: “Butterfly House

Bodies, breeding, robots & work

Another Loving, Autonomous Agents, Boundless Bodies and Lasting Labour. What a wonderful mix of potential futures are wrapped up in the 2019 Virtual Futures’ Near-Future Fiction series and I’m very excited that, in the same way as the 2018 series, I’ll be co-curating the events with other authors. 

We’re not searching for stories set on fanciful alien worlds,  post-apocalyptic landscapes in which steam-punk bandits with laser guns are fighting mutated zombies, or that feature technology so hypothetical it is almost unimaginable. Our aim is to promote stories that think critically about the sorts of technological developments that are just over horizon, and provide a unique perspective on contemporary concerns related to the perceived trajectory of scientific innovation. 

Those of you who have heard me answer the often asked question, “do you write dystopia or utopia,” will know I don’t believe in such a simple view of the world. You’ll have heard me respond with the shorthand statement that one person’s utopia is often another’s dystopia. As our call for stories says, “science fiction is often the victim of this binary between utopia and dystopia – fiction in which all of our problems are fixed or created by a specific technology or technologies. In reality, our relationship with our technology never follows these simple categories – it is frequently a messier affair. Stories that seek to criticize, predict, or complicate realistically will be more successful than those intended to shock with apocalyptic visions or please with plastic paradises.”

Whether you’re an established or emerging author we’re keen to receive your stories; the deadline for submissions is 2 December 2018 and you can download the full guidelines from the Virtual Futures’ website.

If you’re interested in attending the events to hear the inevitable variety of futures our chosen authors create, then you can read more about the themes and book your place via eventbrite; the last series sold out so get in early and book your place now.

I’m really looking forward to reading all the submissions, writing a story for each theme and reading them to a live Virtual Futures audience.

And don’t forget, the future is ours and it’s up for grabs…


photo credit: Frits Ahlefeldt – FritsAhlefeldt.com global-trends-population-growth-culture-illustration-no-txt-by-frits-ahlefeldt via photopin (license)

When will humans change?

In the words of Frederik Pohl, my job as a science fiction author is, “to predict not the automobile but the traffic jam.”

I’m sure we all have mixed feelings about the future of robotics and artificial intelligence.  I certainly do and it’s such a broad subject that it’s no surprise emerging technologies and science generates big questions. What human activity we value and what it means to be human might not be new questions, but this could be the moment to assess them again.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been spending even more time than usual thinking and reading about robots and artificial intelligence. I’ve outlined some brief thoughts below, but there’s way too much to put into a short blog post like this and others have written whole books about it, not least Max Tegmark in his book Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. Continue reading