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UK Robotics Professor Kevin Warwick said: “This is an incredibly important milestone, but anyone who thinks this is not dangerous has got their head in the sand.

“We do not know what these bots are saying. Once you have a bot that has the ability to do something physically, particularly military bots, this could be lethal.”

Here’s the full piece.

I interviewed Warwick about 10 years ago in a piece about the rise of the machines.

“I think some of the time people like to write books with Hollywood endings and the Hollywood ending is that humans will be all right because robots can’t make a cup of coffee,” he said.

“If you say in the book that humans will all die off, no one wants to read that. Even Terminator gets crushed in the end. In reality it’s not the Terminator that gets crushed – it’s the humans that get crushed.”

Here’s my piece.

And for an exciting read in a world not yet dominated by machines, try Game Of Killers: The Spartan as an ebook or paperback.

I don’t have children. But if I did – and lived on the affluent north shore in totally different economic circumstances – then my day might go something like this.

Scene: local north shore café. My Mercedes four-wheel drive is parked outside in a five-minute zone, where it has now been for 20 minutes. An exotic dog yaps excitedly at my expensive shoes. Tired-looking foreign nannies wait behind me in the queue. Indian mynas squawk outside, gently defecating on the bust of a famous mayor.

Tired female café worker: “Here’s your coffee.” Glances back at the very long list of supplied allergies, including but not limited to: “Glutens, shellfish, dairy and poor people.”
Me: “You’re a LIFESAVER.” Takes a sip. “No sugar?”
Worker: “Yes.”
Me: “No milk?”
Worker: “Yes.”
Me: “No coffee?”
Worker: “Yes.”
Me: “Basically just hot water?”
Worker: “Yes.”
Me: “You’re an angel.” Takes another sip. “I’ve been up since seven. Well, the nanny has been anyway. Then took the kids to school. Then spin class. Emmanuel is a SLAVE DRIVER.”
Takes picture out of wallet to show picture of two boys to worker. The blond-headed boys look like Nicole Kidman’s bullying alpha brats from Big Little Lies. “Look at those faces. Aren’t I blessed?”
Worker: “They look a bit like Joffrey from Game Of Thrones.”
Me: “I love Game Of Thrones! My friends say I’m such a Cersei! Do you have Foxtel, too?”
Worker: “No. Our housing estate can’t get it.”
Me: “Oh.”
Worker: “Your kids go to St Rich Man’s, don’t they?”
Me: “Yes.”
Worker: “Private, isn’t it?”
Me: “You can’t trust the public school system.” Pause. “Where do you children go?”
Worker: “St Povo’s Public School.”
Me: “Oh.” My eyes emit the combination of sensitivity/pity that only the parent of private school children can deliver.
Worker: “Wasn’t St Rich Man’s recently in the paper?”
Me: “That was SUCH a palaver. There was a debate at the P&C to change to school motto from ‘by your hard work shall ye prosper’.”
Worker: “And what happened?”
Me: “We voted to change it to ‘by your inheritance shall ye prosper’.”
Worker: “Oh.”
Exotic dog yaps at my feet. “Quiet, Spartacus!”
Worker: “OMG! How cute!”
Me: “Isn’t he?” I hand him a treat from the glass bowl marked “dog treats”, leaving a $2 coin on the counter. Spartacus snaps it in half with small but powerful jaws. “Maybe Spartacus would like a little doggycino?”
Worker: “Sorry, we don’t do them anymore. Not since that investment banker tried to sue us because he said his dog was lactose intolerant.” Worker tries to pat the dog, which suddenly snaps at her, possibly because she doesn’t own any investment properties. “What sort of dog is it?”
Me: “A Hungarian Flesh Eater.” Hold small dog to face. “Where would I be without my little precious wubby-bubby?” The Hungarian Flesh Eater licks my face, then turns back to the worker and growls.
Worker: “Didn’t I read that a Hungarian Flesh Eater bit a kid in the face …”
Me: “That was TOTALLY that child’s fault. Totally!”
Worker: “But didn’t the dog jumped three fences to attack the child …”
Me: “Where were the parents of the child, I ask you? They’re the TRUE monsters.” Something dings in the background. “Saved by the bell!” I laugh nervously, almost guiltily.
Worker: “Here’s your banana bread.”
Me: “But it has no bread?”
Worker: “Yes.”
Me: “So just a banana, then?”
Worker: “Yes.” She hands over the banana. As I look into her eyes, I catch a glimpse of her existential pain: her pain at being trapped in the lower echelons of the capitalist system, which keeps the poor down and rewards rent-seeking over effort.
A wave of self-realisation threatens to overwhelm me. I feel dizzier than I did in spin class. I grab the banana and flee, rushing past the foreign nannies. “Well, don’t work too hard!” I shout gaily.
I unlock the 4WD and toss a protesting Spartacus into the back seat.
I quickly start the ignition, leaving behind the unfulfilled dreams of the working class and the ranger about to give me a parking ticket.

My new thriller Game Of Killers: The Spartan is out now as an ebook and paperback.

One of my favourite directors.
Two of my favourite actors.
Amazing visuals that deserve to be seen on the big screen.
A fantastic score by my favourite movie composer.
One of the most inspiring true stories in military history.
And yet, despite the stakes involves, the soaring score by Hans Zimmer, Christopher “Batman” Nolan at the helm and Tom “Bane” Hardy and Mark “Wolf Hall” Rylance in the cast, Dunkirk left me cold.
Hey, I love war movies. God knows how many times I’ve seen 300. Or Inception and Nolan’s Batman trilogy in its entirety, for that manner. I’ve even written two military thrillers, one of which I published just one week ago.
So I like the subject material and the director.
I wanted to like Dunkirk more.
It took me a while to figure out why I didn’t, but I finally have the answer. (Not seen Dunkirk or don’t want any spoilers? Stop reading now.)
The answer: emotional content and context.
Because you never see the enemy.
Not in the face.
And because of the nature of the violence involved.
There is a direct dynamic between the distance between the person trying to kill you and the emotional impact involved. The closer the person, the more “personal” it feels. The closer they are, the more it feels like they’ve got it in for you. That they want to harm you … you specifically, not some anonymous figure in the trenches or on the beach.
(That’s kind of the reason why Freddie and Jason and all those close-quarter maniacs are so scary. They’ve got in it for you personally. More people die from heart disease or accidents but it’s the terrorist or lone gunman, seeking us out personally to inflict violence, that we fear.)
Close-range violence is the most personal. From all reports, that is the most traumatic distance – for both the person being targeted and the person trying to inflict the damage (because most humans have an instinctive aversion to harming and killing others).
By hand or knife is the most personal.
Followed by close-quarter gunshot or other weapon.
Then short-distance shooting.
Then the more impersonal mortar rounds or shelling.
Then say torpedoes, and, finally, long-distance aerial bombing.
Virtually all of the danger in Dunkirk comes from the Luftwaffe, from their fighters and their bombers.
The first attacks inspire a sense of dread, of the sense of being trapped in a hopeless situation where survival was a victory in itself.
And then, somehow, the violence becomes somewhat impersonal.
Because it is delivered from a distance.
And we never see a German face.
We see the terrified faces of the Tommies on the beach. We feel for them as bombs drop on ships full of troops. We hope they escape the treacherous, freezing water.
But we have no such emotional investment in the enemy. For emotional content, the enemy needs to be close. And it needs a human face.
I love Nolan and everything he’s done way back since Memento. And I realise that Nolan would have had to change history to give me what I want. I realise he wanted to keep things as historically accurate as possible: putting German faces in might just not have been feasible.
Dunkirk is a worthy addition for your DVD collection.
But my go-to war movie will probably remain Saving Private Ryan. It is a film full of emotional content. The first 20 minutes? Mindblowing.
We see the Germans’s faces: we see them battle in close quarters: we even see glimpses of courage and humanity from them. They are a fully realised enemy.
Plus it has Tom Hanks.

My new thriller Game Of Killers: The Spartan is out now as an ebook and paperback.

  1. Sam discovers why they call it the Game Of Thrones
  2. Or is GoT secretly all about climate change?
  3. We now know where Ed Sheeran has been hiding since he quit Twitter
  4. Serial killer Arya wins the Game Of Memes
  5. Cersei continues to pioneer the bowl cut
  6. Sansa is becoming Cersei (without the binge drinking)
  7. The Hound is still calling everyone *****
  8. Are Tormund and Brienne (“Bormund?”) going to be a thing?
  9. Dany slays with a single line
  10. Secret Harry Potter reference

    My new book Game Of Killers: The Spartan is out now as an ebook and paperback.

  1. Avoiding all human contact between the hours of 9am and 5pm
  2. Leaving the terse note, “If you leak GoT spoilers today YOU’RE DEAD TO ME” on Facebook and Twitter
  3. Refusing to discuss anything online except how the new Doctor Who is a woman
  4. Compiling lists
  5. Refusing to come to the door for delivermen, policemen, firemen or holy men, even if they tell me that they have an advance proof of George R.R. Martin’s Winds Of Winter/an axe maniac is the area/my house is on fire/my immortal soul is at peril
  6. Holding my breath like a petulant child
  7. If I somehow come in contact with a human,  deploying an air horn when they say “The Game Of Thrones premiere was brutal, dude! Did you see what happened to …”
  8. If I come in contact with two humans and they tear the air horn away, put my hands on my ears and shout “la la la, I’m not listening”
  9. Put my mobile in the freezer
  10. Hiding out with the Amish like Harrison Ford in Witness 

    My new thriller is now available here and here.

Who are you?

Charles Purcell … lover, fighter, retweeter.
Also a journo with 20-odd years of experience, mostly with the Sydney Morning Herald. Oh, and author of two books: The Spartan and Game Of Killers: The Spartan.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia.

Tell us about your new book, Game Of Killers: The Spartan.

It’s the sequel to the 2014 ebook military thriller, The Spartan.

What’s the plot precis?

“Millions died in the United States when a weaponised plague was unleashed upon the world. Now a new menace threatens the country just as it begins to recover.
The perfect assassin’s tool has been stolen from America’s high-tech labs.
No one is safe … not even the President.
And in the hands of the assassins’s leader is a legendary lost sword: the Honjo Masamune.
Now Tier 1 soldier the Spartan and his ex-Mexican policewoman partner Teresa Vasquez must save the President from being murdered by a bold new enemy – one that seems to be constantly ahead of them every step of the way.
If the President is killed, America will be brought to its knees and the world plunged into war. Plus the ghosts of the past have come to haunt the Spartan: Mexican cartels out for blood, elite operatives chasing revenge and a scarred US General looking to end their deadly grudge match forever.
Can the Spartan and Vasquez defeat their enemies and save America itself?”

Is it inspired by real-life events?

Yes. Particularly the so-called Thucydides Trap: that when a rising power replaces another one, the usual outcome is war. It has happened many times in the past, from Athens and Sparta to Germany and Great Britain.
In this case, we’re talking about the potential for conflict between China and the US. That is the ever-present backdrop for both of my books … what exactly it might take to tip them both into war.

You’re interested in history, then.

Yes, very much so. I studied history at both high school and university. I particularly loved ancient history. I don’t want to live like a Spartan – I’m too much of a pleasure-loving Athenian, fond of my modern comforts – but I do admire the Spartans.

Tell us about your hero, The Spartan.

He’s a Tier 1 soldier, mid-thirties, 250 pounds of tight muscle, cobalt blue eyes, steely brown hair shaped in a buzz cut.
His partner is Teresa Vasquez: special forces trained operative, possessor of the world’s only set of invisibility combat armour, late twenties, brunette, beautiful, smart.
Their job: protecting the United States from all its enemies, both domestic and foreign. And there are a LOT of enemies that fall into both categories.

You’ve written before about the age of the hero being over. How does that apply to the Spartan?

I feel he’s a lot like Ray Donovan, the baseball-bat wielding fixer from the TV series of the same name … a man whose time has passed.
Liev Schreiber once said of Ray: ““Ray is working on old software, functioning in a world that no longer appreciates men as breadwinners and warriors. And there is a lot of pain in that.”
The Spartan is a bit like that: a soldier and a warrior in a world where there’s not much of a place for warriors anymore.
I also feel he’s a bit like The Punisher, Frank Castle, a man on a lonely quest few understand. I love this quote from an emissary of The Hand from Punisher Max: Homeless, as he refuses to take the contract to kill The Punisher: “Frank Castle is an endangered species. And one does not hunt an endangered species. One preserves it. And marvels at its beauty. And on the day it finally succumbs and dies, one mourns its passing, knowing we may never see its like again.”
We like to admire these heroes, but essentially they are people at war with a world that fears and hates them. As Liev says, there’s a lot of pain in that.
So I like to think I’m paying homage to this endangered species before it disappears forever and all the fighting is done by robots or artificially enhanced soldiers.

You’re not a fan of the idea of the Singularity, then?

No. It sounds like a nightmare.

What was the toughest part about writing your book?

Overcoming the hoodoo of the “difficult” second novel.

What was the saddest thing you ever saw as a journalist?

I once saw a star of a comedy series that was huge in the ’80s and ’90s sitting at a comic book convention booth … and no one was going up to him to get his autograph. The look on his face said it all.

You’ve interviewed a lot of famous people: Chris Rock, Robert Downey jnr, Kathy Griffin, Jason Alexander. What quote from one of them stayed with you forever?

When I spoke to Woody Allen about what made him happy … and how we all distract ourselves from the knowledge that one day we will die.
He said: “It’s like what Auden said about death being the distant sound of thunder at a picnic: that’s what [life] is, you’re at a picnic but there’s a distant sound of thunder. You know some day you’re going to die.”

You’re a newspaper journalist. Are newspapers dying?

No. They just smell a bit funny, like a zombie extra from The Walking Dead.

Will there be a third book in the Spartan series?

Maybe. I have some ideas. I particularly liked what Hugh Jackman did with Logan.

What writers do you admire?

Lee Child, Mario Puzo, Don Winslow, Shane Kuhn, Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, John Birmingham from Australia, the guys from The Onion, Hilary Mantel, Tina Fey and probably too many to mention.

What’s something people don’t know about you?

I once hugged Lou “The Original Hulk” Ferrigno.
His arms were soft and strong. I felt so safe.

Any final words?

I hope you enjoy reading Game Of Killers: The Spartan as much as I did writing it.

Game Of Killers: The Spartan is now available as an ebook here and Print On Demand novel here. You can also buy the first instalment, The Spartan, here.