Tuesday, October 17, 2006

How to Survive a Robot Uprising: Satire or Instruction Manual?

"I came here with a simple dream. A dream of killing all humans. And this is how it must end?"
-Bender, Futurama

This is the opening quote to the final chapter of How to Survive a Robot Uprising by Daniel H. Wilson. The aim of this book is to instruct its readers in how to survive the inevitable robot rebellion that will come once the enslaved machines of the future gain consciousness and attempt to overthrow their human overlords. Shelved in the comedy section, this book is nevertheless -- it must be said -- one of the most informative things I've read this entire year.

Part intro to robotics text, part satire, part instruction manual, one of the best things about this book is that the author doesn't allow you to completely separate from the subject matter. Yes, the descriptions of "the robot menace," red eyes blazing, fists smashing through cars and houses, is unquestionably tongue-in-cheek. But I for one found myself making mental notes -- for example, do you know you can disable a shapeshifting robot by pouring syrup over it?? Or that you can disable robot sensors with simple hands full of mud. As the author so aptly points out, "It's hard to wipe mud out of your eyes when you have whirring buzzsaws for hands."

Anyway, here you can hear the author (a surprisingly young guy, with a Master's in Robotics of course) talk about his book and read from the work. He's not a stunning public speaker, but hey, he's pretty smart.