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Murderbots And Humans

by Anu Sundaram 8 months ago in book reviews · updated 8 months ago
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Sometimes it takes Artificial Intelligence to help us find the real in us.

Murderbot In Action

'The Secret Axe' was the title of the first story I ever wrote as a child. I was obsessed with all things secret as a kid. Secret series by Enid Blyton - Secret Island, Secret Seven - was my favourite growing up. What got me into reading was Alibaba and the forty thieves. I was in first or second grade, and my dad was reading that story to me. One night he was busy and could not read to me, but I could not wait, so I took the book and pieced enough words together to understand the story. And since then, there has been no stopping me. I read on the dining table. I read on the couch. I read on the bus. I was afraid to sleep in a room by myself, but I became fearless when I had a book to finish (because it meant I could read even after bedtime). Books have been my true friends throughout my life - summer holidays, when I was alone in the US, tough times during my MBA. Even now, I feel at home when I walk into a library because everybody there shares the love of books.

If you are a true book lover, you will appreciate the quote below.

Nirvana comes in many forms

My first introduction to Fantasy was Terry Goodkind's - Sword of Truth series. I came across it by chance and never looked back. Fantasy became my favourite genre - to be specific, the high Fantasy or the epic Fantasy is my jam. I read everything under the sun - even moved to Dragons, dabbled in paranormal, magic schools etc. I covered all authors - Brandon Sanderson, Robin Hobbs, Patrick Rothfuss, Robert Jordan, Naomi Novak. Believe it or not, I did exhaust the fantasy series, and then I switched to the Sci-fi branch of Fantasy. And that is the focus of this vocal entry - The world of Murderbot in the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells. What I love about Sci-Fi or Fantasy is that how much they mirror our human world.

Couple of Books and the Author - Martha Wells

So, in essence, it is set in the future where humans go to other planets to terraform them to inhabit. And to combat the flora and fauna of alien planets, humans have developed a robot called security units (SecUnit), whose main job is to protect humans. Of course, there is the underlying thread about how the company (that contract out SecUnits) is out to destroy the world. The story revolves around a SecUnit who refers to itself as Murderbot. Murderbot is a self-aware robot (Part bot, part human) that hacks its governor module. It escapes his contract with the company on a quest to discover itself.

Imagine the situation - Murderbot hates humans because - well, they are humans, but it has to pass as a human to avoid capture - and ends up saving and bonding with humans because it cannot help itself.

In this world, all machines or robots can talk to each other via governor modules. And Murderbot, since it is a rogue, can hack into other machines governor's module to get data. So it makes a 'friend' called ART (machine with human consciousness) that it defines as 'Asshole Research Transport'.

After it hacks its governer module - it realizes it does not know what to do. For the first time, it has a choice - as until that point in its life, people have told it what to do. Even after people realize that it is sentient - it still has to overcome its bot-ness.

To pass as a human, it grows its hair and wears human clothes and watches soap operas to understand human nature. All it really wants to do is binge watch shows. And ART and Murderbot share recommendations.

There is an action-packed situation where Murderbot and a human are about to launch an attack. The human whispers to Murderbot, and Murderbot says to itself - 'There is no point in whispering, but I can sympathize.'

It is always frustrated by the decision-making process in humans who seem to dither about decisions as if thinking about them will change what needs to be done. And it learns from the space shows what emotions should it display at what point.

It cringes when other humans get close to it emotionally or physically, but in the end, it discovers its human nature. Murderbot realizes that he loves his humans and ART. It is even willing to sacrifice its life for them. And with a name like Murderbot, it cannot be more ironic.

What tugs at my heart are the emotions, feelings that Murderbot experiences - sometimes, they are not that different from mine. I also watch soap operas. I am yet to understand why some people have trouble making a decision. I also keep a close circle of friends. I also don't like people in general, but I love humans (Yeah - you would get it if you are Murderbot). And sometimes, I find myself guessing other people's feelings. And just like Murderbot, I am on a quest to find myself.

In the end, Murderbot ends up helping out another SecUnit to become self-aware and stop the mindless killing - a lesson that humankind today can learn from for sure.

Sometimes it does takes Artificial Intelligence to help us find the real in us.

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About the author

Anu Sundaram

My vision in life is to be a Better Version Of Myself Every Day. And my purpose in life is ‘Learn, Grow, Inspire and Contribute’.

Everything that I do ties into this vision - including my writing. Check out for more info!

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