By Mark Alpert
I’m too busy this week to write a long post, but here’s a photograph of the launch party for my latest Young Adult novel, The Siege. This book is the sequel to The Six, my YA novel about six dying teenagers who give up their failing bodies and download their minds into U.S. Army robots.
The big challenge of this series is to portray these six human-machine Pioneers as ordinary teenagers trying to adjust to their new steel-and-silicon bodies (and all the extraordinary powers that come with them). We’re accustomed to matching our identities with our flesh-and-blood bodies, so it’s interesting to imagine living outside them. If you replicated all the brain’s connections in silicon circuits, preserving all its memories and emotions and personality traits, would the intelligence inside the machine be the same as the one inside the skull? Or would it be a soulless copy? The robotic characters in The Six and The Siege still think of themselves as human, but most of the flesh-and-blood characters in the books are appalled and terrified by the transformation of the teenagers.
It’s particularly difficult to imagine boyfriend/girlfriend relationships among the robotic teenagers, and yet the Pioneers still form those kinds of attachments. Intimacy is possible even among robots, because the seat of love is really in the mind.
Is this a vision of the future? Will the human race eventually cast aside its fragile biological framework in favor of something more durable, and possibly immortal? I don’t know. But it’s fun to think about it.