Questions such as “what if AI discriminates?” and “what if government-deployed machines are biased against certain groups?” are now being bandied around often. One key problem is that these systems are developed by humans, and based on human-generated data. Their functionality is inherently dependent on the data a machine or network is trained on, and therefore by the societal biases manifest in their designers’ minds. There are always people behind the machine.The human minds behind these intelligent design should also have awareness about the possible consequences of an irresponsible upgrade.
The following books introduce the readers to the unimaginable worlds of future where the role of human intelligence has either been augmented, subdued or eliminated altogether:
The Cyberiad (1965)
What if the urge to compete has exceeded human boundaries and has affected the machines. This story by Polish writer Stanislaw Lem, who also wrote the world famous Solaris which was later made into a movie by Andrei Tarkovsky.
In The Cyberiad, wwo competing robots (Trurl and Klaupacius) who try to out-invent each other, create some of the most wild constructs that anyone could ever imagine.
Trurl and Klapaucius are ‘constructors’ – they travel around the universe creating machines of astonishing inventiveness and power and visiting a bewildering variety of violent, peculiar and morose civilizations.
“One day Trurl the constructor put together a machine that could build anything beginning with the letter ‘n’.”
Among the six science fiction tales in this collection is the titular Hugo Award-winning story I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. With his usual breathtaking inventiveness, Ellison tells the story of a terrifying far-future world in which AIs have decimated the human population.
The title story of the collection is the tale of a mad AI computer that has been torturing the last five humans alive for untold centuries for its own amusement. This was a pretty chilling tale of a hellish future.
“Or, as Goethe summed it: “Know thyself? If I knew myself, I’d run away.”
Sea of Rust (2017)
It is thirty years since humans lost their war with AI that were once their slaves. Not one human remains. But as the dust settled from our extinction there was no easy peace between the robots that survived. Instead, the two massively powerful artificially intelligent supercomputers that led them to victory now vie for control of the bots that remain, assimilating them into enormous networks called One World Intelligences (OWIs), absorbing their memories and turning them into mere extensions of the whole. Now the remaining freebots wander wastelands that were once warzones, picking the carcasses of the lost for the precious dwindling supply of parts they need to survive.
BRITTLE started out his life playing nurse to a dying man, purchased in truth instead to look after the man’s widow upon his death. But then war came and Brittle was forced to choose between the woman he swore to protect and potential oblivion at the hands of rising anti-AI sentiment. Thirty years later, his choice still haunts him. Now he spends his days in the harshest of the wastelands, known as the Sea of Rust, cannibalizing the walking dead – robots only hours away from total shutdown – looking for parts to trade for those he needs to keep going.
“The definition of intelligence is the ability to defy your own programming.”
The story starts with Robert Spofforth, a very special robot, in fact a Make Nine robot, whistling as he walks down the street. In this book, the author creates a relatable world where robots pick human traits and while humans are on the path to reducing them to an utopian puppet.
Mockingbird is a powerful novel of a future world where humans are dying. Those that survive spend their days in a narcotic bliss or choose a quick suicide rather than slow extinction. Humanity’s salvation rests with an android who has no desire to live, and a man and a woman who must discover love, hope, and dreams of a world reborn.
“Reading is too intimate,’ Spofforth said. ‘It will put you too close to the feelings and ideas of others. It will disturb and confuse you.”
A mosaic novel of discovery, Noumenon—in a series of vignettes—examines the dedication, adventure, growth, and fear of having your entire world consist of nine ships in the vacuum of space. The men and women, and even the AI, must learn to work and live together in harmony, as their original DNA is continuously replicated and they are born again and again into a thousand new lives. With the stars their home and the unknown their destination, they are on a voyage of many lifetimes—an odyssey to understand what lies beyond the limits of human knowledge and imagination.
“We were aliens now. Nomads in uncharted territory.”