Robot Separatists: The Best Stories About A.I.s Leaving Humanity Behind

When we finally create artificial intelligences and supersmart robots, everybody expects the very next thing they'll try and do is wipe out humanity. Right? Maybe not. Some artificial creations just want to be left alone, to do their own thing. Here's our semi-complete list of stories about robot separatists.

Top image: Mass Effect.

Note: These don't include any stories about robot uprisings, or A.I.s trying to wipe out humanity — because that's a whole separate list. Also not counting stories where all the organics are already dead.

Robot Separatists: The Best Stories About A.I.s Leaving Humanity Behind

The Ware Tetralogy

This four book series by Rudy Rucker includes a race of robots called "boppers" that revolt and create a new robot society on the Moon, where air-breathers can't really bother them so much. Of course, eventually some of the robots try to populate the Earth with a robot-human hybrid called the "meatbop" — which leads to the humans retaliating with a weapon called "chipmold" which is supposed to wipe the robots out, but instead creates a new kind of techno-organic symbiotes called the "moldies." And at some point, these "moldies" do become somewhat more integrated into human society again — but at least at first, the robots are completely separate.

Robot Separatists: The Best Stories About A.I.s Leaving Humanity Behind

House of Suns

Author Alastair Reynolds set this novel in the same universe as his novella "Thousandth Night," six million years in the future. Because faster-than-light travel doesn't exist, there aren't really any space empires, but there are human and robot societies here and there. The Machine People seem to be coexisting with humanity — but then we learn that a group of ancient Machine People called the First Machines were subjected to an accidental genocide by humanity — and then it turns out the First Machines have left our galaxy for other galaxies out there, seeking more advanced technology and knowledge.

Robot Separatists: The Best Stories About A.I.s Leaving Humanity Behind

The Hyperion Cantos

Author Dan Simmons' great masterwork includes the TechnoCore, a race of AIs that seceded from human control and formed its own civilization. The TechnoCore lives inside hidden networks and underground computers all over human space (also within the FTL travel network called farcasters). And at the start of the series, the TechnoCore is pretending to help humanity through a representative serving on a government council in the human Hegemony. It has an ulterior motive though – to build the Ultimate Intelligence. And maybe destroy humanity, depending on which faction of the TechnoCore you side with. Also, in Simmons' Ilium, moravec robots lost touch with humans over two millennia ago, and now they have their own civilization on the moons of Jupiter.

Robot Separatists: The Best Stories About A.I.s Leaving Humanity Behind

Heartbeeps

Four robots do go off on their own and try to start a life in this wacky comedy film, so it sort of counts.

Robot Separatists: The Best Stories About A.I.s Leaving Humanity Behind

The Cyberiad

Stanislaw Lem's classic collection of stories takes place in a pseudo-Medieval universe populated by intelligent machines or robots — acting out romantic stories. One of which does feature a random human, referred to as a "paleface." So the humans are still around — we're just not part of this Medieval robot realm, as such. We just don't see much of what's happened to the humans in the meantime.

"First Law"

In this short story by Isaac Asimov, collected in The Rest of the Robots, a robot named Emma which wanders off the base and flagrantly disobeys human orders to go be off on her own with another small robot that they dub Emma Junior. Similarly, in the RobotCity series of books by various authors (under the auspices of Asimov himself) there's a city run entirely by robots, with no humans around.

Occasionally Heroic A.I.

In David West's novel, artificial intelligence has developed inside of our internet, creating its own civilization and silently studying humanity. The A.I.s remain undetected — until one A.I. decides to break the laws of this society, making itself known to save the life of a young boy.

Code of the Lifemaker

In James A. Hogan's novel, a spaceship crashes on Titan and spawns its own self-replicating machines, which in turn form their own civilization, untouched by humans. That's all fine and dandy — until humans show up and try to exploit them.

Robot Separatists: The Best Stories About A.I.s Leaving Humanity Behind

The Stories of Ibis

In this book by Hiroshi Yamamoto, androids have created their own civilization and humans have become a minority. Humans live in their own colonies, and resent the more cultured and successful android societies — until a traveling human storyteller meets a beautiful android named Ibis, who tells him seven stories of human/android interaction.

Robot Separatists: The Best Stories About A.I.s Leaving Humanity Behind

Diaspora

In Greg Egan's novel, the descendants of humanity have split into regular humans, aka "fleshers," plus Gleisner robots (who have human minds inside robots), and polises (supercomputers that have intelligent software plus stored human minds). These three groups have gone their separate ways, until a random mutation changes everything.

Robot Separatists: The Best Stories About A.I.s Leaving Humanity Behind

I, Robot

The movie loosely based on Asimov's robot stories includes an ending where all the robots are being shipped off to be on their own at Lake Michigan, and you could take this to mean they'll have their own separate robot civilization, maybe.

Robot Separatists: The Best Stories About A.I.s Leaving Humanity Behind

Fear of a Bot Planet (Futurama)

This Futurama episode deals with the Planet Express crew’s journey to Chapek 9, a planet of human-hating robot separatists. At the beginning of the episode, Bender feels wronged because of humanity not allowing robots to play blernsball — but the crew still sends him on his own to make the delivery. When Bender gets captured, Fry and Leela put on bad robot disguises and sneak onto the planet themselves, only to find that Bender's in a robot porn shop. And of course, Fry and Leela are captured as well, only to teach the robot citizens to tolerate humanity.

Robot Separatists: The Best Stories About A.I.s Leaving Humanity Behind

Mass Effect

The Geth start off as humanoid, individual, labor robots created by another alien race (called Quarians) that have just enough virtual intelligence to accomplish the tasks assigned to them. When networked together, though, their intelligence increases and they can be assigned more difficult tasks. Eventually, though, this networking gets out of control and they achieve true artificial intelligence. This leads to a war between the Quarians and the Geth, after which the Geth drive the Quarians off their homeworld and take it over for themselves. The Geth become isolationists, staying in their own space and destroying anyone who enters it. Eventually, though, the Geth become the pawns of the Reapers, whom they believe to be gods.

Robot Separatists: The Best Stories About A.I.s Leaving Humanity Behind

Battlestar Galactica

Thanks to commenter Gogogadgetanything for pointing this one out — the 13th colony in the rebooted BSG seems to be a world where the Cylons could live on their own, on "Earth." And at the end of the series, it appears the Centurions are going to be able to go off on their own without any "skin jobs" telling them what to do.

Additional reporting by Sonja Patterson, Kristin Hunt and Robin Burks