Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tech Tuesday with Drew Conry-Murray - Robot Friends, Robot Foes

Tech Tuesday is a weekly spotlight on the relationship between real life and a writer's imagination. As science fiction is all about looking ahead to the future, we asked our authors here at Dog Star Books to send us a link to a new technology that influenced their writing, sparked a new idea for a story, or simply caught their attention and got them thinking.

The Author

Andrew Conry-Murray was born in Boston, MA, and lived in the area until age sixteen, when his family moved to New Jersey, and then to California. He attended Caldwell College, where he met Scott, his co-writer of Wasteland Blues, their first novel with Dog Star Books. After college, Scott and Drew moved to Boston. He earned a master’s degree in education from Boston College, but decided not to go into teaching.

Instead, he got a job as an editor at a small publishing company that specialized in books on Chinese martial arts and mediation. He also studied martial arts and meditation with the publisher’s founder, Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming. Drew trained with Dr. Jwing-Ming for four years. Drew is currently  editor of a technology website called Network Computing.com.

The Spark
Imagination, sci-fi movies, and this article.

The Idea
I’ve always been fascinated by robots and artificial intelligence. I find the idea of sentient machines both alluring and scary. The allure comes from the potential for robot companionship, like the robot from Lost in Space, who served as both friend and guardian for Will Robinson. And of course there’s R2-D2. While R2 doesn’t have human features or speak English (or whatever is the lingua franca of the humans in Star Wars), he’s willful, clever, and loyal. I don’t think I’d mind having R2 take care of me when I’m old and decrepit

As for scary, there are innumerable examples, from HAL 9000 (not a robot, but still a sentient machine) to the Terminator. Unfortunately, I think we’re making more progress with malicious machines than friendly ones. Drones may be piloted by humans at present, but given advances in computing power and machine intelligence it’s not hard to imagine autonomous drones becoming a regular feature in city skies. They’d make excellent tools for law enforcement, surveillance, and who knows what else.
The Result
My fear of thinking machines crops up in my novel Wasteland Blues in the form of Mr. Tines, a robot who takes his duties as curator of a museum dedicated to the folly of humanity a bit too seriously for our protagonists. Mr. Tines is polite, earnest, and implacable in wanting to embalm one or two of our travelers to use in an exhibit. 
Now that I think about it, the implacability, the relentlessness to achieve an objective, may be the root of my fear. Humans can be relentless in pursuit of misguided or downright evil goals, but they’re still flesh and blood. When you sheath an unyielding will in a body of steel, you create something truly terrifying.

Find Out More
about Drew Conry-Murray at his website, andrewconry-murray.comand follow him on Twitter @DrewConry Murray.

Be sure to check out Scott Christian Carr and Drew Conry-Murray's Wasteland Blues.
Wasteland Blues

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