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Arts & Life


Author Daniel H. Wilson's Amped Future


John Rosman / OPB

Portland writer Daniel H. Wilson is into robots.

After earning a Ph.D. in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University, the 26-year-old Wilson published his first nonfiction work, How to Survive a Robot Uprising. He has since published eight books, five of which are dedicated to the glory and horror of artificial intelligence. His first fiction novel, the bestseller Robopocalypse, is a modern exploration of a timeless fear: What happens when robots become self-aware?

But Wilson’s new novel, Amped, isn’t about the war between humans and machines. Instead, it explores the marriage between the two:

The novel focuses on the question of using technology to become a more efficient human. What happens when someone implants a chip in their brain to become smarter? To become stronger? What is the social fallout that takes place when a computer chip helps one person outperform another?

As Wilson explained to Think Out Loud’s Allison Frost, placing robotics in the human body is not a science fiction future, but a reality. Wilson cites such modern technologies as neural implants that control epilepsy and prosthetic limbs that allow people to walk and move around as the basis for the novel. These advances helped inspire Amped’s implants that harness Beta 1 waves, making human beings more focused.

“There’s going to be this moment, I think, in the near future,” postulates Wilson, “[that] if you have a disability and you get this technology, it leaves you better than an average person.”

In a modern science fiction novel, Wilson tries to keep up with advances in robotics, but seeks to explore larger themes. For example, he doesn’t just snatch the most modern robot and put it in his narrative. He finds a nugget that makes modern robotics fascinating and a bit eerie.

Listen to Daniel H. Wilson talk about how the technology for detecting seizures influenced his novel Amped:

“It’s in the details,” says Wilson. “You need to look for the creepy, interesting details.”

Listen to the whole conversation with Daniel H. Wilson on Think Out Loud.