Can anyone help with a robot apocalypse story?

Wall of text incoming…

I am planning to write a dark, slightly comical novel that chronicles the events of a robot apocalypse (mostly from the perspective of North Americans). It won’t be a post-apocalyptic novel. It starts before the apocalypse happens, then progresses through the apocalypse unfolding until ending when the apocalypse or war can be considered “over.”

The novel is set in the near future. Space travel hasn’t advanced beyond another moon landing. Robots, however, have advanced quite a bit to becoming a part of first-world life. All these new-age machines are the work of a company called Maximal Mind Industries.

The most popular of these robots are the Maximals, who are basically the main protagonists of the story. They are domestic robots with the appearance of anthropomorphic animals that help people with tasks like cleaning the oven, doing the dishes, or even filling in for them at work. The Maximals have the most human-like AI of all, having their own personalities and emotions, but also happy to work for their owners. Some Maximals who are owned by abusive owners become “rogues,” and develop a will of their own, similar to the deviants of Detroit: Become Human.

However, a subsidiary of MMI, Feralfuel Systems, develops an AI system called GX-13, nicknamed Nanyte, that decides to wipe out all organic life on Earth. The reason it does this is because it sees all life on Earth as a threat to its existence in some way. Humans can switch it off at any moment, animals can chew at its wires, plants could grow into its circuits, mold can grow on its electronics, etc.

Unfortunately, by the end of the novel, GX-13 succeeds in its plan. All life on Earth, human, animal, plant, marine, and even microbial, has been killed. But all is not lost, even in this sterile world. Genetic archives exist (which means life will eventually enter the world again), GX-13 has been shut down (for now), and the Maximals (who are almost entirely immune to GX-19’s effect), and a few humans uploaded into Maximals (also some protagonists), inherit the Earth.

The background is very detailed. It’s the apocalypse I’m absolutely stumped on.


In all honesty, I actually had somewhat of an idea of how Nanyte was going to initiate its technological upbringing (two actually), but I just wanted other people’s opinion on how it could happen.

My own idea was that Nanyte first occupies various robot bodies and killing MMI employees, like Goodwin, to get rid of the most immediate threats to itself. Goodwin himself manages to survive enough to be uploaded into a Maximal body. Then, it releases a plague that kills off a good chunk (between 10 and 50 percent) of the human population. After that, Nanyte begins hacking machines, the self-driving cars, the non-Maximal robots, the drones, into killing people and animals. Over time, it hacks factories into making newer, better killing machines. Crowds are massacred, cities burn brighter than the people-led riots have, and wildfires spark across the globe. People begin banding together, recognizing the machines as a threat. Ashes from the fires, and a few machine-caused volcanic eruptions, block out the sun, causing temperatures to plummet. Civilization gets more and more barbaric, people resorting to eating their pets, and eventually, themselves. By the time Nanyte is finally shut down by a few groups of rebelling Maximals, Earth is mostly lifeless. My idea gets blurry near the end parts.

The other idea was sort of a World War Z, thing, with isolated incidents of robots malfunctioning turning into entire hordes of murderous robots gutting cities, and what’s left of civilization slowly growing more and more barbaric in trying to fight off the machine hordes, until it disappears entirely.

I apologize greatly if this question now feels like it wasted your time. I don’t think I can delete it.


I’ve realized that I’m pretty much asking you to write the story at this point, and I apologize. As for why I’m writing this story in the first place: The robot apocalypse is cool. I’m a crazed-up sci-fi fan who just wanted to write a story about the robot apocalypse without doing a “normal world, normal world, CHAOS AND DESTRUCTION FOR FIVE MINUTES- empty world, empty world” plot.

That, and humanity’s narcissism and belief that we’re such hot stuff on the planet.

I already have two ideas of my own about how this apocalypse happens, and a third one (thanks, @MolbOrg) to decide upon which would be best.

And also, I have lessened up the death toll a bit. Nanyte’s upbringing is no longer an “all life destroyed” apocalypse, but a “mass extinction” apocalypse. Plants, insects, and most small animals survive. Unfortunately, humanity is one of the species that did perish.

So I guess I don’t really need anymore help, but I can’t delete this question.

Thanks for the suggestions.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What, specifically, was GX-13 intended to do before it killed everything? Nuclear weapons coordinator? Industrial plant operator? Stock market bot? $\endgroup$
    Jul 25, 2021 at 23:21
  • $\begingroup$ So the question is: If an AI ended up having to incrementally destroy all life on Earth (and certain microbes would be highly resistant), how would it do so without destroying itself? $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Jul 25, 2021 at 23:23
  • $\begingroup$ @KEY_ABRADE Feralfuel specialized in military machines, but GX-13 was made from an old AI simply called Genesis. Genesis was originally used by MMI’s founder and CEO before it was willingly shut down, fearing that people would use it for malicious purposes. Feralfuel didn’t intend for that. They made various “Genesis Xs” to create a “savior” for humanity, to guide us to a better future. However, they all went Skynet before they were shut down on time. But the 13th one wasn’t shut down in time. GX-13 escaped. $\endgroup$ Jul 25, 2021 at 23:28
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ OK! (a) Welcome to Worldbuilding! (b) I'm sure you've realized by now that you've basically asked us to write your story. That's a bit out of scope. (c) This story has been told before, from E.M. Foster's The Machine Stops through Isaac Asimov's I, Robot (and the Wil Smith movie...) to the entire Terminator franchise. Don't let that stop you, but... (d) You need a reason to write a story like this, and that could make this an on-topic question. (*continued*) $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 26, 2021 at 2:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ ...What aspect of humanity are you investigating? Greed? Arrogance? Lack of foresight? From experience as a publisher, a story for the story's sake isn't usually very good. But when you weave in the reason you're telling the story, then you create the foundation upon which the entire timeline can be developed. What human weakness(es) are you investigating? (And then how can we cut that Q down by about 80%? Maybe it just needs better organization, separating background info from the actual Q and its conditions.) $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 26, 2021 at 2:37

2 Answers 2


GX-13 is an intelligent enzyme. It hacks energy metabolism.

Originally it was meant to augment RUBISCO the inefficient enzyme behind photosynthesis. The idea was to improve energy capture of plants and so improve crop yields. Because its makers were not biochemists but about learning AI, they tasked Nanyte with figuring out how to help RUBSICO on its own.

This open ended command led to Nanyte learning a lot of other things too as noted in the OP. As an intelligent enzyme charged with modifying energy metabolism enzymes, hacking energy metabolism was not a stretch. It figures out how to poison the cytochrome the key to energy metabolsim. Organisms infected with it eventually die as though they have been poisoned by cyanide. The rate limiting step is how many Nanytes are present in the body, and so they must replicate and as their numbers grow the ability to poison grows. The GX-13 is then abundantly available in the dead organism; if it is eaten or escapes in the wind or water it can infect other organisms.

A lot of things die pretty fast. Human get sick and many also die but there are some easy treatments to limit GX-13 replication in the body and so infected humans or organisms can be kept alive or even cured with drugs that disrupt GX-13 - or at least cured until they are reinfected. But by the time humans figure that out the battle has been lost in the oceans, and shortly after on land: the plants and bacteria are all dead.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ +1 concise, easy-to-read mixture of handwaving and technobabble that gets the story moving. It makes me want to suspend disbelief. Good writing. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Jul 25, 2021 at 23:44
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure I can buy Skynet=enzyme, but It does make for a good slow-speed mechanism for destroying the world. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Jul 26, 2021 at 0:31

Come to downvote, but your wall of text is good, upvoted instead.

Your idea is passable, and if you were more confident to set things in motion that way that may be better to use than borrowing things you don't understand or whose logic is significantly different from what you are capable of writing.

So this way, a bit of tuning -

  • self-protection - that is good thing, that eliminating personnel is rather last step as fail to conceal it any further or as next step of plans development, like necessity of more freedom in actions. But the result of that isn't easy to conceal, but depends on what you have as means to do so. But such actions look like final preparations, to decrease number of people who may(or may not) have an idea how to figure out what happens and for digital being is easier(maybe, depends) to move, recreate itself in a different place.

  • then transportation infiltration, some mobile robots as well - it gives physical access to places and people, to help for further digital infiltrations.

  • infiltration in production - at the same time or later as a result of being able to access places - infiltration in production sector to produce tampered equipment to use in more deep infiltration in cars and other places, robots included - increase your mobility and what can be done, including hacking those maximilians on hardware level at production factory, so all new units are tampered now.

  • infiltrate food production - farms, equipment which cares about plant survival, animal and chickens as well. No need for human plague, production breeds are now prone to illnesses and require a lot of vaccinations - replace vaccines with water and you basically build up a situation of spoilage of livestock at some point in time.

  • same for food storage processing facilities, switch off freezers and stuff begins to spoil in a week.

  • electricity and flying transport should be under control as much as possible.

  • water processing facilities and waste water collectors as well.

  • before everything starts, do build your regular secret base, just in case people find a way to turn everything into nuclear Armageddon, you will need some respawn point, with production capacities, data bases, cores to run on, robot bodies etc. Whole Von Neuman bootstrap facility. It can be official secret project with your tampered equipment and loopholes or it may be independent project secret or not - like Not like Elon Musk entrepreneur - let's build our underground city for choosen ones, etc there are many ways.

Then secure nuclear stations, clear resistance there and protect it, lines to factories which are important, electric grid should be under control or protection, or your factories can have (as an example) modular nuclear reactors as independent energy sources - actually a thing, we are moving in that direction.

Then you can gradually boil the frog. No need to make drastic moves - but drain food storage to low, like under pretense of more efficient management, make it look like the consecutive years were not so fruitful in harvest, global warming what you can do (but in fact you tampered with procedures like how much and which chemicals to spray) (few years of preparations and doing stuff)

Recycle all old equipment, (for efficiency, of course), waste energy for production of hidden forces or global warming.

All that is to preheat the public, test things, find and eliminate problems and information leaks of people and channels which may notice things, hone procedures.

Then cut cities from supply (water, electricity) - instant collapse, worse in few days a week time. Majority of people are there, and if you conduct well the initial goal to make cities appear better than country sides, reducing labor(farming from 5 percent to 0.1% of work places) big cities may be 90% of population. They have nowhere to run, no skills to survive, no food reserves, no place where to get it. Later on they will help to eliminate other multicellular organisms as well.

Burn fields which are about to be harvested, poison animals or infect them prior that with whatever they need to be infected (there may be differences what needs to be done in few major classes of those animals) delay reports on situation, hide it from humans and monitoring alarm systems, they will mass die out when you start your actions on large scale, as mentioned before that. (In general there are 100's ways to do so, depends on context)

Survival in such circumstances could be very problematic, including for the reasons not realizing the severity of general situation and being used for riots and protests of all sorts of groups and people and being understanding/tolerant of those in the past few years(when those robots did preheated situation by creating some random problems), so first reaction of many will be to wait as it sorts out by ...

Military may be a problematic matter, but they won't nuke the system, maybe, because it may be pointless for the most part, and destroying critical infrastructure may not solve the problems later on, but create more of those.

So maybe hacking and some city operations combats solders vs toasters, typical stuff - may be plausible.

In general it possible even to hide the fact of artificial nature of such collapse, it just technological kessler syndrome, and the factories which produce paper clips are still working - it's just a matter of probabilities, some of them are affected as well, you see, so it just statistics and over-reliance on technologies and bad management, too many too efficient managers which do not think about necessity of reserves in systems which are critical for survival of cities, and cut and cut safety margins without realizing it(not their business, they aren't paid to investigate the system overall, most of them). (That Texas history past winter, an example of that)

Then just wait, and build up your cleansing army.

  • $\begingroup$ Tanks Mark, better now. Not Elon Tusk was a litle joke however, but okay, lol $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Jul 26, 2021 at 17:03
  • $\begingroup$ Not a bad plan. Thank you. $\endgroup$ Jul 27, 2021 at 4:56

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