Daniel Wilson on Writing 'Robopocalypse'

Tuesday, June 07, 2011 - 12:00 AM

As a kid I dreamed about robots and as an adult I built them. Now, I write about them. In retrospect, it’s all the same thing: I’m dreaming up how humans and machines interact on an everyday basis.

In school, I designed artificially intelligent “smart homes” that monitored their elderly occupants to help them live safely and independently. I also helped build an autonomous boat; designed multi-robot systems that exhibited swarm behavior to search for disaster survivors; and tailored a machine learning algorithm to detect (and remove) bathroom sounds from cell phone conversations. Each of these problems was different, but the solution was always the same: a machine with some brains. Robotics is truly the Swiss army knife of the sciences. 

Many real-world developments in robotics are simply too fantastic. In just the medical domain, consider bacteria-sized robots that can swim in your bloodstream; flea-sized robots that can locomote over the surface of a beating heart; or micron-sized teams of robots that can cooperate with each other. All of these robots exist today, and yet I considered them too “out there” and distracting to include in "Robopocalypse."

My hope is that by the end of the book, the reader will see the world from a robot’s perspective, and perhaps come to understand how unpredictable and scary human beings really are. Someday we will have to share the planet with intelligent machines. Hopefully, the birth of this new species won’t be as violent as the one I describe in the book.

The plot of "Robopocalypse":

"Robopocalypse" (Doubleday; 6/7)  explores the intertwined fates of regular people who face a future filled with murderous machines. As recorded and reported by the robots, each of these unexpected heroes' fates plays a part as human civilization foments the robot uprising, fails to recognize the coming storm, and then is rocked to the core by methodical, crippling attacks. Pushed to the brink of extermination, humankind must learn to adapt and fight back--waging a full-blown war against the machines for the preservation of our species.

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