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Robotic science fiction books of 2021


Scifi robotic books of 2021

2021 produced 4 new scifi books with good laborious science underpinning their description of robots and three the place there was much less science however numerous fascinating concepts about robots. Not solely are these books satisfying on their very own, fiction can function teachable moments in robots and STEM and encourage a robot-obsessed teen to learn extra and enhance their studying comprehension.

  • Termination Shock
  • Machinehood
  • Silly Machine
  • Day Zero
  • Fugitive Telemetry
  • Fan Fiction
  • A Psalm for the Wild-Constructed

Let’s begin with the scifi e-book I most ceaselessly beneficial to buddies to learn in 2021: Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson. It isn’t a robotic e-book per se however robots and automation are realistically interspersed by it- and the e-book is one in every of Stephenson’s greatest, pulling collectively LOTS of expertise, subplots, and themes just like what he did in Diamond Age. One of many expertise threads is how drones are ubiquitous all through the e-book, with small drones getting used singly or in swarms for surveillance and social media and larger drones used for supply, human transport, and, nicely, mayhem. Nominally the e-book is about local weather change and the way a bunch of people led by a wealthy Texan plan to chop by the COP26 conferences blather and get on with geoengineering the setting. Besides cash and geoengineering is the simple half… It’s a dramedy of a e-book and manages to by no means lecture or push political agendas, as a substitute it’s laborious science wrapped with memorable characters, a compelling plot, and a humorousness, with an “oh my!” twist on the finish.

An effective way to consider how drones have gotten subtly built-in as instruments into army, safety, and journalism. And that on the finish of the day, regardless of the large funding in anti-drone expertise, a shotgun with fowl shot could also be our greatest protection for small drones. Try the RTSF matters web page for extra hyperlinks to the science.

Not like Termination Shock, robots and AI *are* the topic of S.B. Divya’s Machinehood. It’s a thorny e-book with a piercingly sharp commentary on the gig economic system, local weather change, automation, and ethics. A rogue neo-Buddhist decides that clever machines deserve authorized rights and protections, just like animals, which she calls the Machinehood Manifesto. Then she leads a terrorist cell to drive governments to include machinehood protections into their authorized framework. A SpecialOps operator is tasked to take her down, which she does with the assistance of her sister-in-law. A lot of motion, numerous concepts, numerous realism and filled with thought frightening jabs. The e-book echoes real-world arguments because the 1980’s about treating robots as animals from a authorized perspective.


It’s a great, very helpful introduction to points in robotic ethics and autonomy and the very actual idea of treating robots like animals- which is roofed within the non-fiction e-book The New Breed by Kate Darling. You’ll be able to learn extra about that in my current Science Robotics article.

Silly Machine by Mark Niemann-Ross is a comedy with an fascinating and well timed plot about autonomous vehicles, cyber hackers, and social justice warriors in Portland. It might be tempting to hack an autonomous automotive to drive an annoying semi-full time, I-protest-everything activist off a bridge, wouldn’t it? Plus there’s a good Ubik-like good home subplot. Not as well-written, plotted, and memorable as Termination Shock and Machinehood, however a fast, simple learn.

The concept that autonomous vehicles can be each ubiquitous and hackable makes it a pleasant teachable second about cybersecurity. A current scifi e-book that explains extra in regards to the workings of autonomous driving is David Walton’s There Legal guidelines Deadly. You’ll be able to learn my Science Robotics article on autonomous vehicles in scifi right here.

Like Machinehood, Day Zero by C. Robert Cargill is about a close to future. It’s the prequel to Sea of Rust, one in every of my all time favourite robotic scifi books. Sea of Rust is an evocative story about what occurs after the robotic revolution and the way the robots themselves descend right into a sort of Mad Max hell. Day Zero isn’t as placing as Sea of Rust, however very satisfying as a prequel. Should you cherished Spielberg’s AI: Synthetic Intelligence, then you definitely’ll doubly love Day Zero as a result of it’s informed from the POV of Pounce, the Teddy-like robotic, who protects his boy Ezra through the robotic revolution. You don’t must learn Sea of Rust first, Day Zero is a stand alone, however I like to recommend you do. I hope there are extra books within the Sea of Rust collection.!

When it comes to robotics, Day Zero is an efficient introduction to nursebots, healthcare robots, and home help robots. You’ll be able to study extra in regards to the science of nannybots on the Science Robotics article and home robotics, typically referred to as domotics at Science Robotics right here.

In fact, there was lots of different robotic science fiction in 2021, simply with much less science. Listed below are three books so that you can think about which have some robots in with actual world science.

The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells is one in every of my high “you’ve acquired to learn!” The most recent addition, Fugitive Telemetry, continues the pleasant Bildungsroman of the galaxy’s snarkiest robotic. ROFL as all the time, it maintains the same old intelligent plotting and motion that makes the Murderbot Diaries a favourite of each the Hugos and Nebulas awards. And Murderbot, just like the people in Termination Shock, has a swarm of drones and is aware of learn how to use them. Oh, SecUnit, I really like you!

And I really like the collection as method of illustrating real-world issues in software program engineering and cybersecurity for robotics. Try the discussions of software program engineering within the first e-book and the Web of Issues within the fourth.

It’s laborious to not like Lieutenant Commander Information on Star Trek and Picard, proper? Nicely, it’s laborious to not like Brent Spiner, the good Jewish boy from Houston who grew as much as write a humorous, self-mocking semi-fictional autobiography in addition to star in successful TV collection. He calls his e-book, Fan Fiction, a “mem-noir” the place an actor, conveniently named Brent Spiner, on the third season of a modest hit conveniently referred to as “ST:TNG” is being stalked by a somebody presupposed to be Lal, Information’s short-lived robotic daughter. The hapless actor finds it’s as if he’s residing in a Raymond Chandler novel. Brent displays on his life and the way he acquired up to now in his profession as he tries to go about capturing episodes, going to events on the Roddenberrys, signing autographs at cons, and hanging out with Patrick Stewart, Levar Burton, and Jonathan Frakes. But Spiner comes throughout as an everyday man, grounded and grateful- and amused- at “making it” in Hollywood. It makes me lengthy for a comply with up- what was life for that actor after the years of grueling 16 hour days on set and the growing fame?

OK, there’s not a lot there when it comes to teachable moments about robots, however it’s nonetheless enjoyable.

A Psalm for the Wild-Constructed by Becky Chambers, the reigning consolation lit scifi author (and that’s factor!), is a sentimental Photo voltaic-punk e-book. The e-book doesn’t have lots of motion however could possibly be good for center schoolers (although some f-bombs are dropped) or a read-aloud to youthful kids. Or one thing to simply to get pleasure from as a substitute of listening to Lake Woebegone tales or re-reading Cadfael books. The premise is that in a future world, robots spontaneously gained sentience after which left human occupied terrorizes to discover being a robotic. Now they’re again, self-actualized, and able to discover humanity by asking “what do people want?”

Doesn’t sound like there’s a lot about actual robots, does it? And but, it has one of the cogent explanations of company, of what makes one thing greater than a machine, which is a elementary idea in synthetic intelligence and in how autonomy is completely different than automation.

Hopefully this record of books offers you one thing to learn and, extra importantly, one thing to consider in 2022!




Robin Murphy
is a Raytheon Professor of Laptop Science and Engineering at Texas A&M College and Vice-President of the not-for-profit Middle for Robotic-Assisted Search and Rescue

Robin Murphy
is a Raytheon Professor of Laptop Science and Engineering at Texas A&M College and Vice-President of the not-for-profit Middle for Robotic-Assisted Search and Rescue

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