The Big Idea: Debbie Urbanski

For her novel After World, author Debbie Urbanski thought about humanity’s place in the world as we understand it… and then went beyond. What does that mean and where does our species ultimately fit in? The author is here to tell that tale.


In my novel After World, I imagine humans have gone extinct to save the planet. It’s more complicated than that, of course. Several not-evil-and-maybe-even-benevolent AIs are involved. And, in theory, it’s only humanity’s physical bodies that are disappearing. Humans (in the form of their life stories) will be uploaded to a place called the Afterworld where, according to the AI in charge at least, people will be happy, more energy efficient, and unable to screw up another world. Meanwhile, the current physical world (i.e. Earth) will rewild and heal. Win-win.

Despite what this plot summary of my novel might suggest, I don’t actually want humans to disappear. But I wanted to imagine this happening in my book because I thought it could be a useful thought experiment.

When I’m asked questions about After World, often they’re AI related, and understandably so. The developments over the past years around AI have been fascinating. I’m probably more excited than most writers about the potential for AI-human creative collaboration, and I deeply love Max Tegmark’s book Life 3.0 and want everyone to read it. But really what AI offered me was a narrative framework for my nature book that holds the Earth at its center…

After World: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Powell’s

Author socials: Website|Instagram|Goodreads|iNaturalist

Read an excerpt.

Source: The Big Idea: Debbie Urbanski

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