Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Devil in the Dust, by Linda Nagata

★★★★☆ Tense, Exciting, and Realistic

(Robot Revolt) Mars has almost completed stamped out the killer bots, but a cleanup crew spots something suspicious and has to check it out. (7,180 words; Time: 23m)

I often complain about unrealistic stories about killer AI. This is an excellent description of the sort of risk we really do face. My special complements to the author for being one of the very few to get AI right and still make it interesting.

"Devil in the Dust," by (edited by Jonathan Strahan), appeared in (RSR review), published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2019.452 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: There’s plenty of excitement as Ellie’s team fights to destroy the nest before it can “fledge” and send out the makings of hundreds of new nests. In the process, we learn all about the war against the RaVN’s, and we learn the secret that Pold has been keeping.

These days, there’s a whole lot of really bad misinformation about artificial intelligence and the threat it might pose, and almost no one writing SF gets it right. This story shows what the real threat is: a system deliberately designed to replicate itself and kill people. Note too that this AI isn’t really intelligent in any human sense; it just follows its core programming. The notion of an AI that becomes intelligent or that “violates it’s programming” or has its own feelings and needs is absurd, and I was happy to see there was none of that here.

Con: None of the characters was particularly appealing. I rooted for them, I was happy to see them succeed, and I was glad they had no losses, but I didn’t end up feeling emotional about any of them.

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