Saturday, October 12, 2019

Five stories about the lives of artificial objects

Andrew Skinner now works as an archaeologist and anthropologist, and is interested in folklore, rain-making arts, and resistance.

Steel Frame is his first novel.

At, Skinner tagged "five stories about the lives of artificial objects, finding their own paths, making their own mistakes," including:
All Systems Red by Martha Wells

I love Murderbot, and you’ll love Murderbot too. Promise.

In All Systems Red, we meet something already intelligent, just not intentionally so. Murderbot is a SecUnit, a combat android assigned to expeditions on the fringes of settled space. Property of The Company, they are a rental security system, mall-cop to the stars. They’re also an emergent intelligence. Murderbot always had the means to be sentient, and all it took was a happy accident (or, in this case, a slightly bored accident) to move from something thoughtless to something racked with ennui.

The other artificial lives on this list are mostly quite different to our own; they have different shapes and different bodies, or live through layers of experience we could only ever guess at. They tend not to waste processor-time rolling their eyes. Murderbot is different to those objects because they are so much like ourselves, and that’s part of why I love Murderbot so much. This artificial life is cynical and sarcastic and often socially awkward, using its newfound intelligence to sulk through an unrewarding (if slightly murdery) nine-to-five.

Sure, there’s the occasional violent incident—that comes with the job—but that’s also just one of many pressing problems. Murderbot has to divide its time between fighting off vicious alien fauna, navigating a world that treats it very much as a thing, all the while trying to fulfill that most human of desires: to blob on the couch and marathon watch TV.
Read about another entry on the list.

All Systems Red also appears among Annalee Newitz's list of seven books about remaking the world, Tansy Rayner Roberts and Rivqa Rafael's five top books that give voice to artificial intelligence, T.W. O'Brien's five recent books that explore the secret lives of robots, Sam Reader's top six science fiction novels for fans of Westworld, and Nicole Hill's six robots too smart for their own good.

--Marshal Zeringue