September 23, 2023

A Fictional Trip to the Future

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The Mushroom: by the Omani Writer Muhammad Alajami

In his novel The Mushroom (London: Dar Arab, 2023), Muhammad Alajami addresses the overlap between humans and the world of robots, and shows how robots are gradually encroaching on humankind’s territory. Beginning by sharing our world, they end up by taking a share of it.

Alajami tackles crime and punishment, building his plot around a murder. Who is to blame? What if the suspect is a robot? Can we persecute a human-programmed machine? These are some of the questions that swim in the sea of uncertainty that floods the novel.

Alajami’s approach is rather different to the one he took in first novel, The Secret of Moriski, in which he surfed history. By contrast, in The Mushroom, he makes a fictional trip to a future where humans’ and robots’ realities share many details, and

he sounds the alarm to prepare for rapid changes to contemporary society owing to the technological progress permeating every part of our lives.

The futuristic characters he imagines are hybrids named Humachines. By blending the words “human” and “machine”, he suggests the establishment of a vocabulary that will embrace all the words resulting from an imagined revolution in the manufacturing of robots. In addition, he provides definitions of some terms used in his narrative, setting out what amounts to a plan of the novel. Some of these neologisms indicate the way he envisages language will evolve in step with changes in the machine world.

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