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Dr Wilson’s central theme revolves around
how to turn the things we rely on to vacuum,
mop and mow (things that have replaced wives,
things of the Stepford order) into branded killing
This is one of those pages of the magazine where
machines of the kind you’d find in a Hollywood
you’re used to reading a reasonably detailed
sci-fi movie, in order to defend ourselves from the
– let’s be generous – analysis of some theory
kind of ‘threats’ you find in movies of that ilk. And
book or monograph, something about the ‘ideas’
yes, if you were ever to make it to page 171 (the
that lie ‘behind’ the art that we lavishly illustrate
end), then you would be thinking that the alien-
elsewhere. And you may have noticed that those
invasion gag was wearing more than a little thin.
books tend to have titles designed to advertise
Still, the invasion conceit provides an entertaining
the seriousness, importance and grandeur of their
vehicle for Wilson to explain both the current
content, as well as a little mystery, because if the
state of robot technology and the extent to which
theory or idea wasn’t a little mysterious, no one
various types of robot slave are keeping our lives
would buy the book. In case you hadn’t realised,
running in a smooth and easy fashion. More
How to Build a Robot Army: Tips on Defending
interestingly, during the course of tracts on how
Planet Earth Against Alien Invaders, Ninjas, and
to program a robot to defend you against a pirate
Zombies doesn’t do any of that and is all the better
attack from Jack Sparrow and The Black Pearl
for it.
(tell it to aim for the eyepatch), Wilson manages
You probably think that the kind of person
to suggest that a frightening future of fantastical
who buys a book like this (the one being reviewed,
threats is more rather than less real (not least
not the mysterious theory ones) is a pimpled,
thanks to his ‘tips’ on how to convert things like
bespectacled computer nerd who’s going to nip off
robot vacuum-cleaners into lethal weapons). And
and rub himself raw over Terminator 2 as soon as he
he’s got a point. Following the ‘success’ of remote-
manages to get his hysterical robot-jokes-are-so-
controlled shooting machines (SWORDs) in their
funny-I-must-get-on-Facebook-immediately-
recent Gulf escapades, the US military are going
and-share-this-shit-with-my-virtual-friends-and-
beyond a mere Nintendoisation of combat and
then-get-back-to-playing-Warhammer laughter
researching the development of autonomous
under a modicum of control. He’s a dweeb who
robots (they look like tank bases with guns stuck
revels in a fantasy world in which Isaac Asimov
to them, normally lots of them) that can further
is God, Wired the Bible and Jesus a mechanical
ease the kill-burden from the shoulders of
arm in a car factory that’s about to have a second
professional soldiers.
coming as a carbon-fibre gynoid. And you’d
‘Believe me, once you befriend a giant
probably be right.
killer robot, there’s no going back’, Wilson
But that doesn’t mean that this is a book that
warns in the book’s conclusion. And despite the
you shouldn’t be interested in, too. Yes, it’s about
preposterousness of most of his imagined ‘threat’
remote controls, but it’s also an engaging exposé
scenarios, by the time he’s got there, you’ll probably
of how remote our control over modern life is as
be thinking he’s right, and that his dumbed-down
a result of the degree to which it is now mediated
pop-culture approach is something that many
by computers, websites, mobile telephony and
people writing about high culture and art theory
Hollywood, and the extent to which everything
would do well to match. The Intangibilities of Form?
anyone experiences is marketed (no story, no sell;
Do you care? Really? Come on… You can bet your
no sell, no feel).
bottom dollar that none of the people we pay to
write about them would ever pick them up ‘for fun’
or to while away a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Mark Rappolt
HoW To BuIlD
A RoBoT ARMy
By Daniel H. Wilson
Bloomsbury, $13.95 (paperback)
Artreview 148
April_Books.indd 148 6/3/08 16:03:21
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