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Eating Robots: And Other Stories (Nudge the Future) Paperback – May 31, 2017
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"Eating Robots is a strong collection that melds together coherently into a near-future dystopian vision that extrapolates upon and slyly comments on trends and tendencies today. Like all good Science Fiction should.” — Allen Ashley, British Fantasy Society Short Story Competition judge
"This collection offers an insightful, often worrying, set of thought experiments on the possible unintended consequences of near future AI.” — Alan Winfield, Professor of Robot Ethics at UWE, Bristol
About the Author
Stephen Oram writes thought provoking stories that mix science fiction with social comment, mainly in a recognisable near-future. As 2016 Author in Residence at Virtual Futures, once described by 'The Guardian' as "the Glastonbury of cyberculture", he was one of the masterminds behind the new Near-Future Fiction series and continues to be a lead curator. He's keen on collaborating with scientists and future-tech people to write short stories that provoke debate about potential futures; the title story of his 'Eating Robots' collection, came from working with the Human Brain Project and Bristol Robotics Laboratory. As a teenager he was heavily influenced by the ethos of punk. In his early twenties he embraced the squatter scene and was part of a religious cult, briefly. He did some computer stuff in what became London's silicon roundabout and is now a civil servant with a gentle attraction to anarchism. He has been published in several anthologies, has two published novels, 'Quantum Confessions' and 'Fluence', and a collection of shorter pieces of work, 'Eating Robots and Other Stories'.
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Top customer reviews
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I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, NetGalley/Silverwood Books!
While the total count is 30 stories spanning 125 pages, the fact is that there are only a few ‘stories’. Others are ‘situations’ of a future world. These so called stories are just about a few page in which Stephen introduces a futuristic real-world very-believable situation to you. You then pause, close the book and think about it. Think about the implications and the consequences. Think about how could humans end up in a situation like that and what will it lead to in further future. Often asking the questions … “How could we mess up so royally?”
The stories in the book are meant to make you think. They are not entertainment but fodder for the fertile and intellectual mind to question and think. The thought provoking stories are in effect, a social commentary on the pace and direction of technology.
The author has taken up various advances in science & technology and extrapolated them into their future shape. Then he created a situation of amusement, horror and even despair as a result of that technology.
The common theme is technology and how it is invading human beings and taking on more and more tasks that humans were doing. As this encroachment increases, will there be anything for the humans to do other than exist?
Will that be in a way ‘machines overtaking humans’ since everything that needs to be done is being done by machines and there is nothing the humans have to do. Won’t the humans die of lethargy and become suicidal due to inactivity … or replace their real life activities with virtual activities … a la Matrix.
I will easily recommend this collection of stories to anyone interested in future tech and sci-fo genre of books. I would even recommend this book to those interested in philosophy – they are sure to find some interesting angles in there.
The stories are brief, some less than a page — perfect bite-size anxieties. Their immediacy makes them compelling, as though they were ripped from tomorrow’s headlines.
“The Downward Spiral of the Disenfranchised Consumer” takes the proposal of a universal basic income to one logical conclusion. The chillingly-titled “Jodie has Been Deleted” taps into our uneasiness about the ubiquity of social media.
The protagonist of “Anxiety Loop” writes “speculative news items”. This is the story of what happens when self-learning AIs are not only granted the same legal rights as humans, but also develop authentic human emotions.
“The Thrown-Away Things” describes the revenge of everyday objects networked by the Internet of Things. “Everyday Stims” portrays a dystopian call centre in which staff are given individually-tailored cocktails of performance enhancing drugs. (I suspect this is already happening.)
Light relief arrives in a playful story, “The Mythical Moss”, about a partially-sentient moss which likes to ride around on the back of a rabbit.
Lest readers think that these stories owe more to fiction than science, Stephen Oram has provided several thoughtful responses from academics. Alan Winfield, Professor of Robot Ethics, at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, University of the West of England, reports that:
“A few research labs, including my own, are already testing robots with ethical governors.”
His colleague, Dr Antonia Tzemanaki, adds:
“… scientists cannot afford to be naïve; we have to always be alert and recognize the warnings, such as those coming from science-fiction stories.”
In case there was any doubt, Eating Robots shows that the future has already arrived.
I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.