apropos of nothing

Robot-Apocalypse Update: The Machines Go Literary

Photo illustration: Everett Bogue; Photos: Hulton Archive/Getty
Images, Retrofile/Getty Images

When last we updated you on the fast-approaching robot apocalypse, we accused the machines of adopting pseudonyms and writing U.S.-market books about the dastardly Chinese, attempting to preemptively tear apart the Sino-American Alliance that will fight back the Toaster Offensive of 2037. Well, damned if they haven’t just come right out and admitted what they’re up to.

As reported in yesterday’s Times (we didn’t see it until today because we were busy stockpiling water and canned food), Philip Parker, a professor of management science at Insead business school, is programming computers to search and collate information into custom-ordered books. In other words: He doesn’t write the books, a robot does.

The article credits Parker with 200,000 titles. For now, the books focus on subjects so arcane and/or technical that it isn’t worth the money for humans to write about them (this is the same publishing model followed by academic presses). What’s troubling, though, is that they’re just practicing. In the future, humans will likely cling to the fact that, while the robot army may have overwhelming robot tactical and logistical advantages, they’ll never have the human spirit: the ability to love, to feel, to write poetry. But then we’ll all find out that, in fact, the last 25 poet laureates and National Book Award winners … were actually robots!!! Nooooooooooo!!!!!!!

In any case, we hope someone sent from the future destroys these robot authors — partly because we don’t want to be destroyed by the machines, and partly because we are pretty well out of robot-war jokes. But we’ll do what we have to if more news comes along — because, while we may run out of punch lines… [adopts growly, inspiring Bill Pullman voice]… we’ll never run out of hope. Ben Mathis-Lilley

He Wrote 200,000 Books (but Computers Did Some of the Work) [NYT]

Earlier: Do Two Recent Novels About China Obscure the Looming Robot Threat? Yes

Robot-Apocalypse Update: The Machines Go Literary