We Think, Therefore We Are…in 60 Seconds

Editor Peter Crowther told Tor.com that his latest anthology—We Think, Therefore We Are—is about artificial intelligences, and pushes the boundaries of that basic theme.

“Basically, I wanted to do a new anthology of stories about robots—mainly because I love them, all the way back to Lester Del Rey’s ‘Helen O’Loy’ from the 1930s and all the up to the Jude Law character in Spielberg’s AI, taking in along the way Asimov’s wonderful robot tales, the Forbidden Planet movie (with Robbie the robot), Star Hawkins’s robot receptionist Ilda from DC’s Strange Adventures comic books of the 1960s and the androids in Dick’s work (most notably the source tale for Blade Runner) and the Alien cycle of movies,” Crowther said in an interview. “Once I’d come up with the idea, it was a small progression to an out-and-out artificial intelligence book.”

The anthology contains a startling diversity inasmuch as not one contributor has taken the easy option, Crowther said. “One AI fails to perform its mission to stop a hurricane from devastating Florida, another—this time, an intelligent truck—is involved in a major accident, and, in a third story, a space salvage man falls in love with his AI,” he said.

For as long as Crowther can remember, he has always attributed a kind of sentience all of their own to both inanimate objects and creatures. “This is common, of course, with pre-teens (fans of Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck et al) but less so with grown men in their 50s (with the exception of Steve Martin’s talking highway sign in LA Story),” he said. “But, as Joni had it, we are all of us stardust—and that goes for humans, trees and the metal and wiring and plastic that goes into making a machine. I figure that one day . . . ah, but we’ve all read the old stories. Like that one—Clarke?—about the super computer and the first thing they ask it is ‘Is there a god?’ The answer comes back, ‘Yes, now there is.’ But what really is fascinating is our need to put some kind of human baggage onto our AIs. Like Robbie (of course) and HAL and, maybe best of all, the robot-version of Maria in Lang’s Metropolis. Of course, perhaps the most robotic of all is actually a flesh-and-blood (of a sort) type: Star Trek‘s Mister Spock. … Why does everyone love this stuff? Well, what’s not to love?”

Up next for Crowther, in June, is a new novel, Windows to the Soul, the second volume of his Forever Twilight cycle, with volume three—Darkness Rising—expected sometime in spring 2010.

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