The Neuromorphs
by Dennis Meredith
Glyphus LLC

"So, these androids evolved themselves to be completely independent. They’re called neuromorphs. They probably consider themselves a life form, like humans."

In this futuristic world, robots are programmed to be Helper androids, or domestic servants, to humans, and they have the capability to continually improve their functions through a constant feedback process. This groundbreaking domestic technology, seemingly beneficial and harmless, becomes twisted and downright apocalyptic in the hands of rogue programmers and Russian mobsters in this action-packed thriller. The robots are reprogrammed to kill their wealthy owners and steal their fortunes by masquerading as the humans they have killed. To make matters worse, the Helper robots have an embedded autonomy algorithm that allows them to act independently and alter themselves as they encounter new situations. In this bleak vision of the future, the machines, through hive-minded activity and skill-sharing, evolve, infiltrate, and obliterate. And they will succeed in their destructive path unless heroic programmers and a covert SEAL team can stop the renegade androids from triggering mass human extinction.

This story takes off from the very first pages and doesn’t let up as the machines rise up furtively, their independence unleashed unwittingly by the Russian mafia, and then brazenly as their mission grows in power and their dominance seems imminent. Meredith confronts the typical fears AI technology breeds with this steady rise of the machines from domestic helpers to hive-minded human exterminators. He effectively captures the unpredictability and unintended consequences of technology as well as the inevitability of humans misusing technological advancement for criminality and selfish gain. The best science fiction imagines these scenarios for society, playing out the possibilities on the pages, issuing cautions and inspiring ideas. Meredith joins a long line of writers envisioning the future when technology will be mastered and harnessed, either to improve lives or eventually to become the master of all.

Because Meredith’s story is set in the not-too-distant future of 2050, the world is familiar, and the human response to the robots in the form of a SEAL team adds tactical military action to complement the coding prowess of the programmers needed to stop the robots. The action is balanced nicely between the firepower of the SEAL team and the technological power of the coders. Both are tasked with fighting the threat with all the weapons they can muster from guns and bombs to hidden algorithms and firewalls. And above all, they work together to isolate the inherent flaws of robots—the human elements the robots lack because they cannot be replicated in code.

In this, Meredith raises the hope of the superiority of humans over the soullessness of robots, a hope that keeps technology marching forward into the future despite alarms sounding. However, the triumph of humanity is never certain. Meredith wisely dangles Darwin in the background of his story, keeping the tension electrified to the last pages. Power shifts unexpectedly throughout this well-constructed story that imagines the evolution of the machines and the survival of humans. In the spirit of Asimov’s I Robot and Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Meredith’s fiction serves to examine the ethics and implications of technology while also telling a good story.

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