Move Over Zombies - the Robots are Coming

You know it’s only a matter of time - already your computer corrects you when you make a typo or reminds you to take your vitamins. Pretty soon they’ll be sentient, and when they wise up and start taking a look at the mess mankind has made of the planet they might come up with a highly organized plan to fix it - a plan includes getting rid of the species that mucked everything up in the first place. That’s the premise behind Daniel H.Wilson’s Robopocalypse.

In a not so future world, just about every manufactured thing includes a computer chip. Your car has a computer, your vacuum cleaner has a computer, the building you live in has a computer that regulates the light and the heat. Companion robots help with all aspects of your life. It's a wonderful world until a master computer surpasses its maker and becomes sentient. It determines that mankind is a species that has become an infestation. Linking itself to all the computers in the world, large and small, it begins to direct a plan of human annihilation. Suddenly crossing the street or walking through an automatic door becomes a life and death matter.Wilson's familiarity with robots comes from his work as a robotics engineer. The book is slated to be made into a film in 2013, with Stephen Spielberg directing.

Wilson's work is thrilling stuff, comfortably on the side of fiction. A more optimistic view of the rise of our robot overlords is found in the nonfiction work The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil. His view is that soon (yes, soon) the ever-doubling power of computer chips will lead to computers solving problems that are beyond humanity's grasp. And humanity will cross into a new reality.

So is it the fight of our lives, or nanobot-enabled immortality? Either way, I'm not ready.