4 out of 4 stars
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Discredited Citizen by Robert Kiesling is a cautionary tale that mixes science fiction and legal thriller. In 2030, Dr. Doug Mann lives in a smart city where artificial intelligence controls the criminal justice system. There are still some crimes, so there are still cops, human and robotic. One day Dr. Mann stumbles into a human cop who's been shot and tries to help him, but it's too late. When robot officers arrive, they accuse him of murder. John Keys is a human lawyer who accidentally discovers that case and offers his services, but evidence indicates that Dr. Mann is guilty, why is that?
Robert Kiesling imagines a future based on technologies that are mostly already available. Even artificial intelligence is already used in various forms, for example, to gather the data you give away in many ways and profile you. In that future, robots are used in courts of law and to assist human cops in watching over the human population, but who watches the watchers?
When Dr. Doug Mann is accused of killing a human cop he just tried to save, he finds himself at the mercy of a justice system where guilt can be assessed in minutes by artificial intelligence. He could avoid the death penalty admitting guilt, but he's innocent. His human lawyer seems the only one who sees that things don't add up, but his investigation goes against Zon, the corporation that created the artificial intelligence and the service robots.
2030 is probably too soon for a smart city like the book's setting to exist. Some more technological advancements are needed, followed by important legal changes. Maybe the author wanted the readers to feel that future close to them, but it seems unlikely. This is the only thing in this book I didn't like.
Timeline apart, I felt this novel was thought-provoking because the themes addressed are very important and will become crucial with every technological advancement. Our society has become complex, so a lot of people don't even try being aware of how it works. That goes from big political and social issues to everyday tasks.
Understanding new technologies requires effort, also because you need to keep updated as they get improved over time. The result is that you can use technologies or you might suffer the consequences of your lack of knowledge. If you let someone else use technologies for you, they will control your life exactly like it's already happening, for example on the Internet. Another consequence is you can't check someone's honesty if you don't know how they're using certain technologies. For example, if you don't understand how your data are gathered on the Internet, how can you check if the companies that use your data are complying with the laws? Imagine what could happen if no one could control those companies.
The book contains profanities, but not sexual references. The complexities of the themes are what in my opinion make it suitable for adults or at least to teenagers who have a certain awareness concerning the consequences of use, misuse, and abuse of technologies. It contains a few errors, but they didn't detract from my enjoyment.
In my opinion, this cautionary tale is important and well developed limiting technical jargon to the minimum, so my rating is 4 out of 4 stars. The developments seen in the plot require some big changes, but I got the impression that it's a realistic future. That means it offers a lot of food for thought and can help you improve your awareness about control of technologies. That's why I think everybody should read Discredited Citizen.
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