In ‘Autonomous,’ Climate Change Is a Disease Vector

Chicago Review of Books

autonomousBurning Worlds is Amy Brady’s monthly column dedicated to examining trends in climate change fiction, or “cli-fi,” in partnership with Yale Climate Connections.

Autonomous, written by Ars Technica’s Tech Culture Editor, Annalee Newitz, opens approximately 150 years in the future, on a pirate ship in a thawed-out arctic where the Northwest Passage is traversable and a vacation resort spreads out across a swath of former permafrost.

It’s not gold that these pirates are after, however — it’s medicine. Meet Jack, a once-legitimate scientist from the Free Trade Zone (formerly North America) driven by idealism and necessity to spend her life reverse-engineering vital medicines desperately needed by a world ravaged by disease and climate change.

Her world is similar to ours in that capitalism, global economies, and Big Pharma continue to shape society. But it differs in that the development of advanced biotech has changed the very meaning…

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