It’s hard to describe this work because it is so meta. It is a really little book that tackles a really big topic: Existence. Less than 135 pages encapsulates the human experience and asks what is it that really makes us alive.
“Is it a question of name? Could I be a human if you called me one?”
“I have never not been employed. I was made for work.” Literally, because employees on the Six Thousand Ship are basically robots that were created for work, humanoids coexisting beside real humans who have been in space for so long they have forgotten their humanity. Both seem to be adopting traits of the other: the humans are becoming more like the employees, and the employees are learning how to be human. And what happens when a humanoid begins feeling emotions? Crying? Showing desire, fear, and anger?
“I feel a similar longing to be human.”
“‘I hate interface,’ my humanoid co-worker said the other day.” But how can a humanoid have feelings that were never programmed into their being? And still, the employees are seen developing “strategies in dealing with emotional and relational challenges,” raising questions like can computers learn to program themselves?
“Am I human or humanoid?”
And for the crew, when the lines of reality blur, they begin to question everything. “I started to wonder who I actually am here. An employee, a human, a programmer, Cadet 17 of the Six Thousand Ship.”
“I don’t know if I’m human anymore. Am I human?”
This is an extremely relevant message for today’s world, where the lines between reality are beginning to blur with technology and social media.
“Tell me, did you plant this perception of me? Or did this image come up from inside me, if it’s own accord?”
In a larger sense, this work poses a metaquestion — is it ethical to play god over our creations? Where is the line drawn between human and inhuman? Can computers and robots learn to gain consciousness, will they eventually become human? And what happens if they can, or when they do? On the flip side, are humans becoming more robotic, and how will it impact our future?
“There’s humans, and then there’s humanoids. Those who were born and those who were made. Those who are going to die and those who aren’t.”
If you like Brave New World, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and Anthem, you should read The Employees.
Thank you to Book*hug Press for sending me a free Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) of this title. All opinions are my own.