Where will artificial intelligence take us? And what existential questions will the rise of AI pose? These six reads explore the potential for robots and artificial intelligence to save — or destroy — us all… perfect to tie you over until Season 2 of Westworld.
Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
It’s the future (it’s always the future) and drug pirate Jack — known as a pharmaceutical Robin Hood — is giving poor people the medicines they need but can’t afford. All admirable until Jack’s the cause of many lethal overdoses. Eliasz, a military agent, and his robotic partner, Paladin, are tracking her down. While doing so, they form an unusually close bond… sound familiar? Newitz is a master storyteller, and this book is especially powerful because it probes philosophical topics like property, identity, and — of course — autonomy.
Made to Kill by Adam Christopher
Raymond Electromagnet is a detective. He’s also a robot. Programmed to always work to make a profit and with a memory tape limit of only 24 hours, Ray would do just about anything to get some cold hard cash, and he’s sure as hell good at keeping secrets. Hired to find a missing movie star, Ray the robot gets into some serious trouble… making the novel a thrill to read.
Infomocracy by Malka Older
Infomocracy was on tons of 2016 Best Books lists, and Huffington Post called it “one of the greatest literary debuts in recent history.” It deserves the praise! Political parties spar during an election cycle, twenty years after Information — a powerful search engine — ended international wars and introduced global micro-democracy. How often do you hear about awesome political thrillers?
All Systems Red by Martha Wells
This one is really reminiscent of Westworld because it tackles the same fascinating (and scary) topic: consciousness in robots. In All Systems Red, a self-aware android on a mission in space has hacked its governor module and now refers to itself as “Murderbot,” scornful of humans. But when a neighboring mission goes dark, even the robot wants to find out what happened. This novel is especially frightening because it poses the question of what happens when robots outsmart humans… which seems to be very plausible in the near future.
The Boost by Stephen Baker
What happens when artificial intelligence gets installed into the brains of 99% of the human population? For one, a serious breach of privacy. In The Boost, Ralph notices that the new update to their brain chips will open a surveillance gate that could leave Americans extremely vulnerable… but in an attempt to expose this flaw, Ralph experiences resistance that threatens his life. His chip has been ripped out of his head, so now he has to fight back with his only analog tool: his brain.
Chasing Shadows by David Brin
We’re switching it up with a short story collection — and this anthology is hyper-realistic. Collected by David Brin (a legend) and written by other SF luminaries, Chasing Shadows examines the present-day increase in video surveillance and the state of technological transparency… ultimately revealing what the world might look like down the line (spoiler: dystopia).
If you’re looking for a quick yet horrifying non-fiction read, check out this 2-part article.