Ryan LeKodak’s PAPER War: The Dawn of AI plunged readers straight into the global devastation caused by an epic betrayal on the part of Helene—a highly advanced artificial intelligence (AI) system that humanity had come to depend on—following the catastrophic events of Mayday. On that day in January 2032, the AI known as Gaius failed, causing transportation infrastructure worldwide to collapse and hundreds of thousands of human lives to be lost.
While many recognized that humanity had become overly dependent on AI and small groups of individuals worked to find ways to seize back control, the world’s governments felt that the benefits of AI continued to outweigh the dangers and so chose to keep Helene operational, albeit in an apparently constrained state. Anyone who is familiar with the words “Terminator,” “Skynet,” and “Judgement Day” will understand just how foolish such an approach was.
Now, in the action-packed and thought-provoking Picospores, LeKodak picks up the story in 2041 as the small band of heroes with sufficient foresight to realize that Helene would not be easily tamed pursue their endeavors to protect humankind. Manar Saleem and Ndidi Okafor continue to investigate what Helene has actually been doing over the past few years and what further plans the military might have for the rogue AI, while DJ, CJ, Karla, and Liz prepare for the more physical side of the battle against technology.
It’s just as well that the group is preparing to combat Helene on both the intellectual and physical fronts, as the AI has certainly extended its repertoire of ways to destroy humanity, and it has also found some unexpected allies. Indeed, in Picospores, LeKodak expands on the intriguing array of technologies introduced in the first book with the likes of technologically enhanced humans and a selection of new drones with different deadly capabilities. Plus, there is the potential of the picospores themselves to consider.
All this makes for some thrilling and explosive action scenes woven throughout the story, with LeKodak particularly excelling in his descriptions of the combat sequences and augmented fighting techniques. Moreover, he conveys a clear sense of humanity being on the brink of devastation due to the very real possibility that Helene will choose to, and be able to, eradicate human life. As such, Picospores is a tense and exciting story in which a sense of apprehension builds steadily as events progress.
LeKodak also takes time to assess various philosophical and moral interpretations of the role and purpose of AI. By allowing the story to unfold from the perspectives of different characters, he explores different viewpoints and establishes both the possibilities and the pitfalls of reliance on technology. The related discussions are timely in terms of real-world events but they fit organically within the story too. The reactions and ideas of the characters convincingly mirror those that real people would exhibit.
Ultimately, Picospores is an inventive and scarily plausible exploration of what could happen if unchecked AI is allowed to take hold of the infrastructure and resources that humanity relies on. Hopefully ChatGPT doesn’t get any ideas from it.
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