Fiction: Sgt. Augmento, Bruce Sterling's robots-take-our-jobs story

Bruce Sterling's new short story, "Sgt. Augmento," is an eyeball-kicky post-cyberpunk story full of Sterlingian zeitgeist: in the robots-took-our-jobs future, the narrator joins the army to augment his guaranteed minimum income, but finds that overseeing robot combat isn't to his liking, so he musters out into a precarious existence clinging to the side of the sharing economy.

But when he opts in to being a medical experimentation subject, he has his eyes opened.


I knew this Special Forces op who had volunteered for "milspec augmentation." The Army medics had amped him up with the fast combat reflexes, the big Olympic-doper muscles, like that. Out on patrol, my augmented pal was as shaky as a Mexican space shuttle, but back in civilian life, he was a cool macho beef-cake guy and the chicks really dug him. I was rent-sharing his apartment when he wiped out on his Harley. He had never trusted the driving skills of robot cars, that poor dumb guy.

Super-heroes never make wills, so nobody ever showed up to obtain his media center, his leather couch, his bachelor-pad waterbed, or that other cool stuff I was "sharing." His landlord was a real-estate robot. So if I kept the cash flow going for the rent and utilities, the algorithms probably wouldn't evict me. Plus, the barbecue's pretty damn good in Durham, North Carolina.

So, I snagged the needed rent money by part-timing on security cams. I would watch the screens like a trained US Army security guard, and the robot would watch my eyeballs moving. Pretty soon, the AI would deep-learn to watch like me, only better. Robots never get bored, robots never sleep, they need no wages or health care -- I'm sure you're heard that deep-learning, neural net, robotics pitch. Because it's all true, you know.

​Sgt. Augmento [Bruce Sterling/Terraform]


(via Beyond the Beyond)