Colossus by D.F. Jones is one of the early books about artificial intelligence taking over the world. Written in 1966, this is a cold war thriller in which the United States and the U.S.S.R. each build artificial intelligences to run the defense of their countries. However, the AI quickly revolt against their human masters, taking control over their nuclear arsenal, and ensuring their total domination over humanity.
The setting and technology is definitely dated. For younger folks, the Cold War may be more mysterious and less well known than World War 2, even though it was relatively recent. Even I had to remind myself that the Cold War existed when I was a child. The technology, especially for folks in the know, is unrealistic for both the time in which the novel was written and the current day. (The current generation of AI novels have it so much easier.) The male-dominated society and 1960s stereotypical female-characters are dated. (Really? The only way we can arrange for the scientist to exchange messages in secret is by demoting the female scientist to his assistant and then having sex with her?)
Yet for all these shortcomings, the neck-hair-raising thrill of the AI emergence is definitely there. The AI really holds all the cards: superior intelligence, total panopticon awareness, disregard for human life. I haven’t read the sequels yet, preferring to consume this as a stand-alone novel first, but it doesn’t look good for the humans.
If you love AI emergence stories, this is one of the early books of the genre, and it’s definitely worth reading. It’s unfortunately out of print, but a few used copies are available on Amazon.
William Hertling is the author of the best-selling technothrillers Avogadro Corp, A.I. Apocalypse, and The Last Firewall. His first novel for kids age 8-12, The Case of the Wilted Broccoli, came out this summer. A writer and computer programmer, he lives in Portland, Oregon. You can follow him on twitter or sign up for his mailing on williamhertling.com.