Robert and Rob, the robot programmed with his brain scan, were introduced in my previous novel, Intelligent Consent.
Now, the future of Robert and his companion Anastasia, is balanced on a knife-edge. As part of Project Transition, they are key developers of scanning technology used to copy the structure of the human brain and load it into intelligent robots.
Augustin Selworthy employs them to help create military robots. However, this application turns out to be a smokescreen hiding their true purpose, which involves locating and controlling a priceless treasure.
Augustin intends to kill them if they try to escape his control, or when Project Transition is complete and they outlive their usefulness.
As a further complication, Project Transition is threatened by Limitless Boundaries, a shadowy organisation, intent on the elimination of all advanced robots. Maxwell, the leader of Limitless Boundaries, believes robots are an existential threat to humanity and must be totally eliminated.
Meanwhile, two intelligent robots, Rob and Sam-renamed-Penny, have been sent to Mars to help Augustin achieve his all-consuming dream. Although their thoughts and ideas exactly parallel the humans who were scanned to create their robotic brains, they realise they have no right to control their lives or even a guarantee of their continued existence. Can they fend-off attacks by trans-planetary bandits, and in parallel with Anastasia and Robert on Earth, use all of their cunning to outwit Augustin?
As a robot, Rob believes in the future for intelligent robots and explains to Penny:
‘We’re limited in how far into the future we can predict human attitudes to robots. I like to think of this as the intelligence horizon… Hopefully, beyond this horizon, intelligent robots may be accepted as having at least some rights.’
About The Author
Over the majority of his working life Andy Russell was involved with research into intelligent robotics. Some of his robots communicated using puffs of air, licked the floor to follow chemical trails or burrowed through the ground searching for chemical leaks.
It was not uncommon from reviewers of his research to complain it was too speculative, perhaps too much like science fiction? Now, in retirement, he has the freedom to explore robotics and science fiction more broadly without any requirement to demonstrate practical implementations.
The future of robotics and technology more generally promise many exciting developments as well as complex ethical considerations. Science fiction provides an ideal medium for investigating the possibilities.