As machines get smarter and smarter, the pundits rush in to scare us with their idea of what the future world will be like. Generally, it’s not a pretty picture they see. There seem to be only two possibilities. Either machines will annihilate the entire human race in an unearthly blast of shock and awe. Or we will all be gradually dehumanized into a race of zombies, mechanically following every wish of the new masters. “If we’re lucky, they’ll keep us around for pets,” goes the dark humor.
A new book now challenges that dreary view. “The Virtual Librarian: A Tale of Alternative Realities,” a visionary science novel by Ted and Bob Rockwell, suggests another outcome: the machines will teach us the importance of our being completely human, so that the machines can fully carry out their necessary and complementary mechanical functions.