'Will we see humans as machines?'

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New Delhi, Sep 9 (IANS) “Zero Dark Thirty” meets “The Social Network” in this science-fiction thriller by the Hugo and Nebula award finalist S.B. Divya. “Machinehood” (Hachette) is about artificial intelligence, sentience (awareness of feelings and sensations), and labour rights in a near future dominated by the gig economy – a labour market characterised by short-term contracts as opposed to permanent jobs.

Welga Ramirez, executive bodyguard and ex-Special Forces, is about to retire early when her client is killed in front of her. It’s 2095 and people don’t usually die from violence. Humanity is entirely dependent on pills that not only help them stay alive but also allow them to compete with artificial intelligence in an increasingly competitive gig economy. Daily doses protect against designer diseases, flow enhances focus, zips and buffs augment speed and physical strength, and juvers speed up the healing process.

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All that changes when the Machinehood, a new and mysterious terrorist group whose operatives seem to be part human, part machine, simultaneously attacks several major pill funders. They issue an ultimatum: stop all pill production in one week.

Global panic ensues as supply lines get disrupted and many become ill. Thousands destroy their domestic bots in fear of an AI takeover. Determined to take down the Machinehood, Welga is pulled back into intelligence work by the government that once betrayed her. But who are the Machinehood and what do they really want?

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A thought-provoking novel that asks: If we won’t see machines as human, will we instead see humans as machines?

S.B. Divya is a lover of science, math, fiction, and the Oxford comma. She is the Hugo and Nebula Award-nominated author of “Runtime” and co-editor of the “Escape Pod” podcast, with Mur Lafferty. Her short stories have been published in various magazines, and her short story collection, “Contingency Plans for the Apocalypse and Other Situations”, is out now from Hachette India. She holds degrees in computational neuroscience and signal processing, and worked for 20 years as an electrical engineer before becoming an author.

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–IANS

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