Book: A.I. Apocalypse

Holy cannoli! That’s what I shouted out loud (startling Amy and the dogs who were laying peacefully next to me on the couch last night) about 100 pages into William Hertling‘s second book A.I. Apocalypse. By this point I figured out where things were going to go over the next 100 pages, although I had no idea how it was going to end. The computer virus hacked together by a teenager had become fully sentient, completely distributed, had formed tribes that now had trading patterns, a society, and a will to live. All in a parallel universe to humans, who were now trying to figure out how to deal with them, ranging from shutting them off to negotiating with them, all with the help of ELOPe, the first AI who was accidentally created a dozen years earlier and was now working with his creator to suppress the creation of any other AI.

Never mind – just go read the book. But read Avogadro Corp: The Singularity Is Closer Than It Appears first as they are a series. And if you want more of a taste of Hertling, make sure you read his guest post from Friday titled How To Predict The Future.

When I was a teenager, I obsessively read everything I could get my hands of by Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and Robert Heinlein. In college, it was Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, and Neal Stephenson. Today it’s Daniel Suarez and William Hertling. Suarez and Hertling are geniuses at what I call “near-term science fiction” and required reading for any entrepreneur or innovator around computers, software, or Internet. And everyone else, if you want to have a sense of what the future with our machines is going to be like.

I have a deeply held belief that the machines have already taken over and are just waiting for us to catch up with them. In my lifetime (assuming I live at least another 30 years) I expect we will face many societal crises around the intersection of man and machine. I’m fundamentally an optimist about this and how it evolves and resolves, but believe the only way you can be prepared for it is to understand many different scenarios. In Avogadro Corp and A.I. Apocalypse, Hertling creates two amazingly important situations and foreshadows a new one in his up and coming third book.

  • I’m a big fan of near-term sci-fi as well. They didn’t make your list, so in case you haven’t read them, I highly recommend Super Sad True Love Story, Halting State, and Rainbow’s End. Great backdrop visions of Social Networks, Virtual Worlds and Augmented Reality, respectively. My reviews here (,, and

    • Super Sad – I got halfway through and got distracted. Will try again – total “me” fail, not book fail.

      Grabbing the other ones now. (Update: I didn’t realize they were Stross and Vinge. Big fans of both. Already have Halting State but didn’t have Rainbow’s End).

    • and thanx for these too. The ending ) messed up the last link for me. Most of this crowd will probably be okay 🙂 but if you have time, you might want to fix it.

  • this is becoming my place to go to for sci-fi recommendations. Thanks for posting and thanks @twitter-121961272:disqus for suggestions

    • My favorite stuff to read is sci-fi!

      • that is pretty clear !! I used to read much more sci-fi when I was younger but the last few years have found it difficult to find quality books. That’s why I am super excited with yours and others recommendations. I will be digging in many of these books over the summer

  • Thanks for the recommendations. I’ll pick both up today.

  • Thanks for the tip! Bought the first Hertling book. been looking for another near future SciFi read – recently finished The Windup Girl (more medium-distant future) and wanted more. I was ultimately a little disappointed in the first two Suarez books – huge ideas, amazing potential but got bogged down in the throw everything at the wall and see what sticks approach of a first-time novelist.

  • Great post. I worked in the robotics field for a while, and my feeling is that we’re a long way from the Singularity (just watch the robo-soccer world cup!). Instead, I see us rapidly merging with our machines and we’re barely aware we’re doing it. When I see someone walking around mobile phone in hand, fully engrossed in what they’re doing and barely aware of their surroundings it makes me think of the Borg. Doesn’t help if they have a bluetooth headset too!

    However, the problem of our generation is data overload and I think we’ll see some pretty good AI emerging in the next decade to help us with that, which may drive us towards that Singularity a little faster perhaps.

  • “The current generation of games required custom programming to do well.” (from page 3-4) That would be most excellent. I want to build that. Unfortunately, this is in some ways the opposite of what most game developers really want to build right now I think. They want to control everything. Second Life is not like that of course. But, that’s not really a game either. If they do give you some scripting in game it is rather limited. Changing the “market commodity” to the algorithm that can modify the dynamics of the game world is an awesome idea. It would create a certain amount of chaos but, in the right kinds of games, that would be fun!

  • really enjoying this book, you switched me onto Hertling after recommending Avogadro Corp. Fred had a great post on books last week and Hertling was my recommendation along with Daniel Suarez

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