Short Story Corner: A Model Dog by John Scalzi & Digitocracy by Andy Weir

Short Story Title: A Model Dog

Author: John Scalzi

Publication Date: January 21, 2019

Available to read for free on: – click this link to go read the story

Indie Athenaeum Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

At a big technology company, a supervisor is talking to one of his engineers about a request their eccentric billionaire CEO has. Their CEO has an elderly father who has a dog and when the dog dies, the CEO’s father wants to have an exact robotic copy of his current dog to keep him company. Undaunted, the engineer takes up the challenge and as the project moves forward, there’s a twist to this tale, leading into an ending that I never would’ve expected.

The story takes the form of a conversation between two engineers trying to problem solve the peculiar request from their CEO. Utilizing his trademark witty wordplay, the discussion about the robotic dog, referred to as a cananoid, veers off into humous asides with some somber overtones to them while still keeping it light. Frivolous discussions about things like corporate office perks, overworked scalziemployees and asides like the private habits of the elderly highlight the humor of this piece. By the way, apologies to the Republic of Kiribati for everything they suffer at the hands of the clueless CEO in this story. 😉

But right alongside these more whimsical notes are more serious themes such as the unlimited gathering of private data, artificial intelligence and the age-old question that just because we can do something doesn’t mean that we should. All of this is blended together into an uproarious tale that nevertheless celebrates the care we have for our loved ones as well as that of our four-legged friends. I admit that I couldn’t predict the ending, which made me get a little choked up after I read it. I found this to be a poignant, funny and intelligent short story.

This is a short story that appeared on The Verge website, as part of their series about optimistic science fiction called “Better Worlds: A Sci-Fi Project About Hope.” Find out more about that project here.

Short Story Title: Digitocracy

Author: Andy Weir

Publication Date: July 23, 2018

Available to read for free on: – click this link to go read the story

Indie Athenaeum Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Artificially intelligent city-minds manage every single metropolis across the world and have taken care of human beings for many hundreds of years now. One individual, Damak, is fed up with the robotic dictatorship that runs the city of Wichita. He wants to confront it once and for all, with a plan to destroy it! But can Damak succeed in his endeavor?

This discussion between Damak and Wichita the city-mind presents a classic science fiction debate about the merits of humanity trying to achieve ultimate happiness on its own without self-sabotaging itself or whether artificial intelligence can do a better job. andy weirWichita’s sole purpose is to maximize the happiness of all its citizens and argues that it has almost succeeded in its role as appropriately managing its citizens. Damak argues the opposite and that humans are slaves to the tyrannical machine. Is there a distinct winner and loser in this debate?

Each point of view is equally valid but it’s clear that the city-mind knows things that Damak doesn’t. When Wichita shares what it knows and how it tried to achieve its goals, I got unsettled by what it said and disturbed by the actions it took in the name of its purpose. It even horrified me as well as stupefied me in that its logic made a twisted kind of sense. It concludes on both a humorous and chilling note.

It wouldn’t be an Andy Weir short story without engaging me with some of his comical banter and surprising developments. But overall, this demonstrates a darker edge to him than I usually find in his short stories. As a result, I immensely enjoyed seeing him expose this side of technology and how he ingeniously explored it.

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