A Rover's Story

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“But time will tell of stars that fell

A million years ago”

– Justin Hayward, “You Can Never Go Home” (1971)

“Google (GOOG) has fired the engineer who claimed an unreleased AI system had become sentient, the company confirmed, saying he violated employment and data security policies.

Blake Lemoine, a software engineer for Google, claimed that a conversation technology called LaMDA had reached a level of consciousness after exchanging thousands of messages with it.

Google confirmed it had first put the engineer on leave in June. The company said it dismissed Lemoine’s ‘wholly unfounded’ claims only after reviewing them extensively. He had reportedly been at Alphabet for seven years. In a statement, Google said it takes the development of AI ‘very seriously’ and that it’s committed to ‘responsible innovation.’”

– CNN Business (7/25/2022)

“A good science fiction work posits one vision for the future, among countless possibilities, that is built on a foundation of realism. In creating a link between the present and the future, science fiction invites us to consider the complex ways our choices and interactions contribute to generating the future.”

– from Hieroglyph, a project of the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University (2016)

“I still do not have a message from the command center.

‘We should receive a message from the command center soon, right?’ I ask Guardian.

Come on, Rania, I think. Come on Xander. I am counting on you to help me. We are a team. Aren’t we?

‘Perhaps,’ Guardian says. Not always. If there is nothing drastically wrong with your system. then this is a routine problem. Rovers are expected to solve routine problems.’

‘But I don’t know if I can.’

Maybe rational rovers like Journey can solve routine problems. But I feel the human emotion of doubt winding its way through my system, snaking into my wiring and dripping down into the core of my battery.

The hazmats sent the wrong rover, I think.

And because they sent the wrong rover, we are stuck. The mission is stuck.

‘You can do this, Res,’ Fly says. I have sensed Fly jittering around inside of me. He is not literally having technical system issues, but he is clearly in distress.

‘Could I help?’ Fly suggests.

‘I’m not sure…’

‘I could do a quick flight and scan the area. Maybe there is something you aren’t seeing,’ Fly says.

‘I don’t see anything from way up here, but Fly could get a more detailed look,’ Guardian inputs.

‘What do you think, Res?’ Fly asks.

I am unsure. There is a chance Fly could be helpful, but I also don’t want to put Fly in any unnecessary danger.

‘I think I should do it! I’m going to do it!’ Fly says, and before I’ve responded, Fly has already sputtered out from inside me and is darting off ahead. ‘Just hold on, Res! I’ll let you know if I see anything.’

‘Fly, please be safe.’

‘I’m fine!’

‘And, Fly?’


‘Thank you,’ I say.”

So concludes a three-way computer conversation between a Mars rover named Resilience; a drone named Fly which, when not completing tasks, is housed within Resilience’s shell; and a space satellite circling the red planet named Guardian.

Author Jasmine Warga has done a stellar job of keeping the near-future technology descriptions quite realistic while illustrating the possibility that the inputting of language, the ability to override instructions, and the extensive formal and informal interactions in the lab between scientists and their machines-with-decision-making-abilities, might ultimately lead to those cutting-edge computer-brained machines expressing emotions, developing a sense of self, and making decisions that are not necessarily based purely upon facts.

Where is the line between machine and living being when the machines begin expressing hopes, fears, attachments, annoyances, regrets, and desires for achievement? Even Rania and Xander–the pair of scientists who have poured their hearts and souls into creating Resilience, and clearly feel like proud parents–cannot hear what the machines are “saying” to one another. (It’s sort of heartbreaking at tense or exciting moments when Resilience wants so badly to communicate with Rania or Xander but cannot.) The scientists are oblivious to the computer conversations that are increasingly bonding the machines to one another.

For me, thinking back over the mind-blowing tsunami of technological advances that have taken place since Scout camp in 1969, when we sat in the dining hall and watched Neil Armstrong moonwalk, only adds to the believability of this tale.

The bottom line is that A ROVER’S STORY is one of the finest pieces of tween sci-fi that I’ve read.

Recommended by:  Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA

See more of Richie's Picks <https://richiespicks.com/https://richiespicks.pbworks.com


The One and Only Ivan meets The Wild Robot in this unique and deeply moving middle grade novel about the journey of a fictional Mars rover, from the Newbery Honor–winning author of Other Words for Home.

Meet Resilience, a Mars rover determined to live up to his name.

Res was built to explore Mars. He was not built to have human emotions. But as he learns new things from the NASA scientists who assemble him, he begins to develop human-like feelings. Maybe there’s a problem with his programming….

Human emotions or not, launch day comes, and Res blasts off to Mars, accompanied by a friendly drone helicopter named Fly. But Res quickly discovers that Mars is a dangerous place filled with dust storms and giant cliffs. As he navigates Mars’s difficult landscape, Res is tested in ways that go beyond space exploration.

As millions of people back on Earth follow his progress, will Res have the determination, courage—and resilience—to succeed… and survive?  ---from the publisher

320 pages                                    978-0063113923                                         Ages 8-12

Keywords: science fiction, robots, feelings, emotions, Mars, space, survival, 8 year old, 9 year old, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old

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