In May of 2017, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg told an audience of Harvard grads that millennials will have to invent new middle-class jobs to replace tens of millions that will be lost to automation.  In March of 2018, Elon Musk said at South by Southwest, “AI (artificial intelligence) is more dangerous than nukes, by far.  So why do we have no regulatory oversight?  This is insane!”

The Apex Child is an informed examination of the dangers of AI-based, next-generation automation tucked inside a coming-of-age novel about a plucky, quantum-brained android named Piper Beta-3 who’s sold into post-industrial servitude.

The year is 2044, only a generation from now.  Piper Beta-3 is a new kind of quantum android who’s been programmed and trained by her maker, Dead-Cat Systems––to be a salesperson.  Her new life is challenging enough: to adapt to the human world, to interview for her first job, and eventually to sell new cars.  But, unbeknownst to her, other nation states are desperate to get their hands on Dead Cat’s latest technology, meaning her.

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Two months before graduation, Piper is yanked out of sales school and transferred to an off-campus residence.  The next morning, on the way to her first job interview, her minder discovers that their minivan is being followed by the press, or by activists from the Anti-automation Movement, or by agents from an unknown foreign power.

Piper Beta-3 is made of polymers, steel, and quantum precocity.  Her character is forged over the next three weeks by a series of ordinary and extraordinary events: a chance encounter with a child, a brush with death, her first sales call, the electrocution of her twin, a round of golf, the murder of a peer, and Dead-Cat’s revenge.

In tempo, as the body count rises, it becomes increasingly clear that Musk and Zuckerberg are right.  Tens of millions of white- and blue-collar jobs will be lost to automation in the next twenty-five to fifty years unless we begin to take cautious but well-reasoned steps to regulate the application of artificial intelligence.

Or we can take our chances with self-regulation.  (See the article by the same name.)

Other Books

Yr. hmbl. srvnt. has authored four other books: The Arithmetic of Life and Death, In the Land of Second Chances, One Part Angel, and The Widows of Eden.  The first is a compilation of essays about real-world problems that can be better understood by the application of everyday arithmetic.  The latter three are a trilogy about a troubled town in rural Nebraska and the stranger who tries to help them, or they’re a logic-based search for a benevolent God.

Professional and reader reviews, the requisite cover art, and detailed descriptions of all four can be found at


The illustration was created by Robin Vuchnich.