Book review Made To Order: Robots and Revolution

Made To Order Robots and Revolution - edited by Jonathan Strahan

Now that I am shut in due to the corona epidemic I read a lot. My review of Chassepot to FAMAS by Ian McCollum appears to be well read. During the weekend I also read through a short story anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan entitled Made To Order: Robots and Revolution. You can purchase it in paperback for $11.99 on Amazon.

Made To Order appears to be a celebration of the centenary anniversary of the word robot as first used by Karel Capek. Strahan details its history in popular culture in a short introduction, from Metropolis to Blade Runner and Battlestar Galactica. These days the word robot is undistinguishable from artificial intelligence. In this story anthology 16 accomplished authors have written their take on the coming robot revolution. Famous authors include Alastair Reynolds, Peter F. Hamilton, Annalee Newitz and Ian R. Macleod. Yet, I think every story in this collection is top notch.

Maid-dog-raccoon café?

The first story is entitled “A Guide to Working Breeds” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad. The format is in the style of an online chat between two sentient AIs. K.g1-09030 works in the service sector. While C.k2-00452 AKA Constant Killer acts as a mentor and has become quite proficient at death-match gaming. It also gains a dislike for humans along the way. Despite what you may think the AIs do not have the same skills. This leads to the recently awoken K.g1-09030 to work at a maid-dog-raccoon café, and doing poorly at it. The reader is wholly entertained by the AIs naiveté. As well as the bizarre world described in the chats. You get the feeling our world is truly hurtling to the one described by Vina. The near-homicidal advice given by Constant Killer adds to the flavor.

Another favorite is that by Welsh author Alastair Reynolds. Alastair Reynolds‘s story “Polished Performance” is typical of that of the author. Set on a hibernation ship travelling between the stars the robots onboard discover that all of the humans have died. Not desiring to get the blame and their memories wiped they attempt to impersonate humans. This spectacularly fails, with no small degree of black humor. For all of their intelligence the robots were only meant to serve and cannot understand or emulate human idiosyncratic behavior. Even after careful observation. It is a low-level floor polishing robot who has the greatest insight, as they regularly had direct contact with humans.

A final opinion on Made To Order

Made To Order contains plenty of other similarly themed stories. The robots, and A.I.s in general, are our new slave laboring class. Yet, the fact that with greater intelligence, and ability to serve us, also comes the risk they may one day not want to serve. This is a recurring topic throughout the anthology. How will robots and A.I. view humanity when they became sentient? Few of the stories have anything positive to say about that prospect.

However, the stories are highly entertaining, the authors also show that they are up to date with developments in the field of AI, such as Deep Learning. This ought to give any reader pause to think what the consequences of AI are going to be. I hope you enjoyed this mini review. I cannot recommend Made To Order enough. Its entertaining, written by great authors and will definitely help you through the epidemic. Even if with its 400 pages its just for a few days.

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