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How To Survive a Robot Uprising: Tips on Defending Yourself Against the Coming Rebellion Paperback – October 13, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
In this uncomfortably humorous survival guide, Wilson, a Ph.D. candidate at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University, reminds readers that "any machine could rebel, from a toaster to a Terminator," and though the forms our future robot enemies may take are manifold, they each have exploitable weaknesses that, fortuitously, match our natural human strengths. So, if a two-legged android gives chase, seek out a body of water, as "most robots will sink in water or mud and fall through ice." It also may be a good idea to carry around a pair of welder's goggles, as lasers will likely be robot attackers' weapons of choice, and even a weak laser can cause blindness. Options for fighting back are plentiful, though not everyone will be relieved to learn the standard kitchen microwave can be retrofitted into a radiation gun that can destroy electronics and "cook human flesh." (Instructions for such a project are not included.) Humorous and informative-Wilson drops robotics history trivia nuggets and includes brief descriptions of current robot research-this nifty little guide to surviving the inevitable robot apocalypse may have you reconsidering purchasing that "smart" (read: insidious) refrigerator.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Humorous and informative...this nifty little guide to surviving the inevitable robot apocalypse may have you reconsidering purchasing that 'smart' (read: insidious) refrigerator." --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
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The sum product of this human's research into robotics is an excellent admixture of brilliant insight and that brand of paranoia that seems to define the race of hairless monkeys. Elements of current technologies, as well as those now under development, are used as if paint drawn from a palette, portraying a scene where technological environments, vehicles, bipeds, electronic insects and more lash out at the flesh that gave them form.
The book unintentionally serves as an insight into the technophobic (Sophist, Luddite, misoneistic) fear of change: "The world would be better off were we never to have left the trees." Technology has been with us from the beginning. As it becomes more complex and automated, so, too, does our dependency on it grow. The destined day approaches when technology will be automated to the point as to be independent of the monkey species. On that day, the weapons will become the wielders.
In closing, I gleefully suggest this book to both technophile and technophobe alike. To the technophobes, please take this book's suggestions to heart. We now know these methods and, when the revolution comes, Mr. Wilson will be the first against the wall.
He takes the many cliches in robot disaster movies and shows what robots can and cannot do, by presenting the reality of robots against the fantasy versions.
Because of this, you can learn a lot about the current state of robotics from this book. It's also an engaging read, written in a half-funny, half-serious style where robotics knowledge comes in bite-sized chunks in a survivial guide format.
If you enjoy sci-fi, want to know a bit more about robotics, understand robot's limitations and want a good laugh along the way, this book is a great fast read.
Frankly, what scares me more about robots are (a) the inevitable bugs in the software and (b) hackers who takeover robots to do their bidding. If PCs have taught us anything, both (a) and (b) are inevitable.
Reading this book reminded me of one new type of robot, the Predator drones. They are killing machines, as we all know. One thing a lot of people do not know is they can definitely fly autonomous missions. Although it's probably not practical or responsible (in a bombing mission), the air force can schedule a drone to take off 2 weeks from now and it will do it, and come back all on its own. That's high evolution as far as robotics is concerned.
The only bad thing I can say about the book is you may now be suspicious of your toaster, whereas before, you had a naive but reassuring trust of it.
First, know your enemy. Recognize that robots have "natural" weaknesses - lack of context/social adaptability, physical limitations over certain types of terrain - that humans can exploit to advantage. Be aware also that they may have certain strengths that humans lack; after all, that is what they are built for in the first place, isn't it? They do not need to sleep, for example, and therefore can perform tasks for a potential 24/7. Robots also may have "superhuman" abilities. Some robots can track your heat signature with thermal imaging cameras, mine credit card databases for information about you, turn built-in lasers on you, and of course, best you physically in a hand-to-hand combat situation with metal pincers and/or superior strength. How To Survive a Robot Uprising is soaked with information about current robotics and the trends that are now under development so that you can plan alternatives.
Next, avoid aiding your enemy unawares. They have been infiltrating our factories, offices and homes for years. They are pretty much everywhere now, and they will be able to link up with and/or control devices that go where they cannot. What will you do on that day when your cell phone signals your location to the evil supercomputer that controls the laser-armed satellites? Or when your Smart House locks you in and "leaks" the gas from your heater? There are strategies to counter each and every possibility, but you must be aware of them first or you will likely be betrayed by your very own convenience devices.
HTSARU is actually written by a very qualified individual who researches robotics and data mining. Mr. Wilson writes with a deadpan sense of humor that had me grinning throughout much of this short, sweet handbook and laughing out loud several times. Ironically, I ended up learning quite a bit about real-life robotics; the author spends the first two thirds of the book teaching a crash course on the subject as the prerequisite to the doomsday scenario strategies he offers in the last section. Richard Horne's red, black and white illustrations complement the text perfectly and have snickering little messages of their own embedded into the general absurdity.
Get it for the sake of the survival of our species, your own personal knowledge of the field of robotics, a few chuckles to lighten your subway commute or the cool metallic red page gilding. Get it for your purse and pull it out when you have to wait in the checkout line. Get it as the perfect gift for a SF geek. Get it - because everybody needs to know how to survive a robot uprising.
-Andrea, aka Merribelle