Matt Jones

Nicholas Fisk

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When I was around the age of 11 or 12, I was a big fan of a children's fiction author called Nicholas Fisk. He wrote books that were key in developing my interest in science, technology and in particular artificial intelligence. One particular book, ‘Robot Revolt’, is a story set in the near future where sentient humanoid devices are used as household servants. The book centres around a particular family who buy a top of the range ‘Mk III’ robot called Max. Max is the only one of his kind around; he is sleaker and more intelligent than every household robot on the street. However, things take a sinister turn when the robot population of the town - lead my Max - revolt against their masters. It's very much novel about the Frankenstein complex, which is something Isaac Asimov tried to dispel in his robot novels [which I then went on to read]. In Asimov's novel's, humanoid robots live in harmony with humans under the three laws that govern them and they are given equal rights as members of society. The amazing thing is that Asimov was writing about this in the fifties, when there was a predominant fear of technology, especially technology which mimicks human beings. I'm surprised that Asimov's name doesn't appear more in the run up to the release of Spielberg's A.I.. I know the short story was written by Brian Aldiss, but Asimov was working with the same themes much earlier and much more expansively.