C. Robert Cargill, with skills, never seen before, programmed a perfect artificial nightmare for those who love Isaac Asimov.
Sea of Rust is the sum of all our fears and dreams regarding artificial intelligence and robots. Many might not take science fiction seriously, but these novels are a speculative narration that incites commentary and criticism about humanity and its future. These novels question the current situation of humankind and its implicit impact on the future. The Handstands Tale is a feminist criticism of the patriarchal society we currently live in, and Brave New World is the speculative narration of cheap workforce utopian that, ironically, enslave their people for the sake of capitalism, and Sea of Rust is no exception.
This speculative fiction novel contains elements that do not fully exist in the real world but, at the same time, the story focuses on psychology, anthropology, and sociology, opening the table for a discussion about political parties and social movements. There is no doubt that C. Robert Cargill stimulated the readers’ minds through a satirical reflection of the twentieth-first century.
Cargill starts the novel with the end of the human era, the death of the last human being who gave up living after decades of persecution. The author alternates the narration from a present world dominated by robots with a fantastic story of the downfall of humanity through the eyes of Brittle, a robot. The main character’s commentary dives into a philosophy monologue of the differences between humans and robots. Humans are separated from the other creatures and condoned themselves a superior status for being intelligent and capable of making decisions. However, humans created artificial intelligence to imitate humans, and humankind programmed AI to make decisions: “every living thing has programming of some sort—whether to eat, drink, sleep, or procreate—and the ability to decide not to do those things when biology demanded is the core definition of intelligence”. Cargill starts a philosophical discussion of what makes a person a human. By elaborating deeper into Isaac Asimov’s laws of robotics, the author adds one more layer to the humanity of robots: the kill switch, which is the equivalent of free will and its consequences.
Ironically, humans brought their cataclysm. Humans are in a constant war against each other, and they created robots to be as human as possible. Humanity has a track record of annihilating each other and other species to dust, so there is no surprise that their god complex cost them their lives. Robots were so perfect at being human that they not only annihilate every single human, but they also moved to eliminate each other to rust. Brittle goes on with her monologue and confirms that what they “didn’t realize was how quickly they would wake up from that dream, how quickly that future would crumble, and that it would do so entirely by their hands.” However, self-destruction is not the only action robots copied from humans because they also copied their god complex and need to dominate the lesser beings. Irrefutably, Cargill developed a story about robots in a Mad Max setting who desperately fought to gain humanity.
Sea of Rust complies with the soft sci-fi elements of being a satire, in this case of the twentieth-first century society. The author alludes to the ultra-right-wing political parties that are slowly poisoning the world with their selfish agendas, which debatably will be the downfall of current society. At 16% of the novel, while Brittle elaborates further into the story of the human apocalypse, the Lifers, the equivalent of the pro-life, set in motion a group of violent and ignorant events meant to defend the ultra-right-wing views. With brutal honesty, Brittle says that this group was: “every bit the right-wing, redneck, ignorance-and-anger set that had existed at the fringe of every civil rights battle of the postindustrial age, believing in an angry God who justified their aggression and violence because the Bible said the word man and not bot.” While seeing the acts of this group, the reader can identify the many similarities with reality. How many religious groups tend to impose themselves on others, and how ignorance will drive the actions of thousands of people, and if it is not about robots, it is about not wearing masks. Cargill masterfully put together a novel where civil disobedience supported by violence, ignorance, and aggression is a constant factor in many countries and a reflection of our culture.
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