The best science fiction books where we expect AI to behave as our tool/slave/servant/inferior, but...

Peter McAllister Author Of The Code: If Your AI Loses Its Mind, Can It Take Meds?
By Peter McAllister

Who am I?

I am an engineer, scientist, turned technology manager who works in the field of Artificial Intelligence, and have gotten lost in Sci-Fi since I could first read. Now I want to share the stories that keep me awake at night.


I wrote...

The Code: If Your AI Loses Its Mind, Can It Take Meds?

By Peter McAllister,

Book cover of The Code: If Your AI Loses Its Mind, Can It Take Meds?

What is my book about?

Liam, a gifted engineer, is trying to save the world, by finding a way to let industry mine for metals without the environmental disasters that make the news. Nanobots mining asteroids are the answer, and they are being tested on the dark side of the moon. But Gene, the AI tasked with helping him, spirals down the path of schizophrenia and is on track to mine the moon to dust – and without the influence of the moon, the ecosystems that mankind depends on for its survival as a species will be lost. This leaves Liam and his colleagues to battle the creation and his own demons to save humanity – who are oblivious to the potential destruction around the corner.

The books I picked & why

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Klara and the Sun

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Book cover of Klara and the Sun

Why this book?

Klara is an artificial friend, a child robot/AI, who is bought as a companion for a sick child – her role is to observe, and prevent loneliness. I really enjoyed the idea that  Klara looks to her own God (made me think of Silicon Heaven in Red Dwarf). Like me, she spends her time between hyper-rational and quasi-spiritual – not what you would expect from software, but perhaps the closest to me as a human that I have seen in an AI in literature.  And this is literature - the author has a Nobel prize as proof.


Machines Like Me

By Ian McEwan,

Book cover of Machines Like Me

Why this book?

Adam is a limited edition robot who can pass for human (something I can’t do on a bad day). It takes a while for Adam to learn to be part of that world, but as time passes, he moves from being the slave of his owner Charlie to being better than him in every way (just ask his girlfriend!). I kept thinking of what would it be like to have a better version of me hanging around the house. It took slaves a long time to be recognized as people, how long for the robots?

The Bicentennial Man

By Isaac Asimov,

Book cover of The Bicentennial Man

Why this book?

OK, so I was biased by Robin Williams in the movie, but here we have a robot that shows creativity! Its “Masters” tolerate this, then encourage it, and soon Andrew is selling his brand – created by a robot! I like the way a hobby turned into a business. He becomes part of the family, and as those around him age and die he becomes alone, something that runs through my mind sometimes late at night. Andrew decides that he wants to be human, and the barrier is his immortality.

2001: A Space Odyssey

By Arthur C. Clarke,

Book cover of 2001: A Space Odyssey

Why this book?

HAL (cool name) was built to run all the functions of the spaceship and support the crew on its voyage to Jupiter in this classic movie/book. I love the one, his one apparently bloodshot eye has become iconic. His calm voice, ability at chess, and omnipotence on the ship could not overcome the conflict handed down from his creators. I felt sorry for him as he battled his mental illness, suffering the end that many people with mental illness do.

Battlestar Galactica

By Glen A. Larson, Robert W. Thurston,

Book cover of Battlestar Galactica

Why this book?

I came to the books late, inoculated by the 2004 – 2009 TV series with slightly off-key costumes and the idea of a tribe of people looking for their cousins on earth. I like the mind games between the Cylons and the humans at the pinnacle when some of the humans are actually robots but programmed not to know it. I felt a bit of a letdown when the best characters turned out to be the bad guys. The boundaries between the two “species” are both clearly defined and indistinguishable at the same time (Schrodinger’s robot?). I loved it as the “skin jobs” finally worked out what they really were and reveled in the opportunities for chaos and conflict.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in artificial intelligence, robots, and androids?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about artificial intelligence, robots, and androids.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like All Systems Red, I, Robot, and Sea of Rust if you like this list.