THE APEX CHILD and the Last Days of the Middle Class
Unemployment is low in the United States today, but it won’t last because it can’t last. According to a 2018 study by the McKinsey Global Institute, the research arm of a highly regarded international consultancy, four out of every ten American jobs will be lost to automation in the next twelve years. THE APEX CHILD is an allegory, a science fiction novel that exposes the danger and warns the losers.
It’s the Spring of 2044, just one generation from now. The weather in Silicon Valley is enviably mild but three degrees warmer than it was in 2015. Pizza is more popular than hamburgers, home drones have been outlawed, and autonomous vehicles require “safety drivers.” Three versions of Dead-Cat Systems’ famous quantum androids have saved thousands of lives, but they’ve taken thousands of jobs because they’re faster, more reliable, and an order of magnitude more cost-effective than humans.
A quantum-brained android named Piper Beta-3 is the first product of Dead-Cat’s groundbreaking sales program. Two months before graduation, she’s yanked out of trade school and transferred to an off-campus residence called the Quantum Motel. She has three objectives: ace her interview at an auto dealership, get hired, and sell a lot of cars.
Piper is the smartest creature ever created. Getting the job should be a snap, but three million Americans will be put out of work if she succeeds. The Anti-Automation Movement and a federal agency called The Office of Automation Oversight are watching her every move. A bankrupt foreign power has put a team of agents on the ground whose sole mission is to capture her and smuggle out of the country.
Piper doesn’t know it, but she has a fourth objective: Make it through the week in one piece.
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 helps them, or they’re a logic-based search for a benevolent God.
Arithmetic was a genre bestseller. Second Chances was an amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and Literary Guild bestseller. Professional and reader reviews, the requisite cover art, and detailed descriptions of all four can be found at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
The illustration of THE APEX CHILD was created by Dawn Austin.
The Apex Child is an informed examination of the dangers of 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, but Piper 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, both friend and foe, are desperate to get their hands on Dead Cat’s latest technology, meaning her.
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 unidentified 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 priest, a brush with death, her first sales call, the electrocution of her twin, a round of golf, the murder of one of her peers, and Dead-Cat’s revenge. In tempo, as the body count rises, it becomes increasingly clear that by the end of the century there will be no cake and no middle class unless we reinvent ourselves.
About the Author
George Shaffner has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and an MBA. He was an IBM systems engineer and salesman and eventually was CFO, COO, CEO, and/or chairman of high-tech startups and small companies in Silicon Valley, London, Washington DC, and Seattle. Over the course of his career, he sold or managed the sale of more than $250,000,000 of networked computers and software that “improved the productivity” of thousands of workers. In other words, he put thousands out of work. The Apex Childis his apology, and a warning.
He also wrote The Arithmetic of Life and Death, In the Land of Second Chances, One Part Angel, andThe Widows of Eden. Second Chanceswas an amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and Literary Guild bestseller.