Engineer develops moral-based AI with risky consequences as ethics, technology collide in hopeful sci-fi debut

DALLAS – Determining right from wrong isn’t as simple as running an algorithm — or is it?

Dive in and discover the newest of technologies and its improvement of humanity in Lois and Ross Melbourne’s hopeful science-fiction debut. Using their backgrounds as tech executives, “Moral Code” (Sept. 20, 2022, Nonlinear Publishing LLC) breaks barriers as a young engineer develops an AI for children only for others to pursue its code for their personal gains.

Keira’s entire reputation is built upon the development of ethical computing. Her AI, Elly, is the testbed and best example using her Moral Operating System. Her absolute dedication to improving children’s lives could now put all she’s worked for at risk. If she fails, her top two priorities yield dangerous consequences. Her new boss’s nanites must be restrained through an upgrade to her MoralOS. Eavesdropping with that same SmartDust, her anger rages at the abusers she hears. They must be stopped. Keira thought she and Elly, with her ethical framework, could keep everything under control. Against conventional wisdom, it’s not the moral decision making of AIs that’s the problem. It’s the people.

For fans of “Catfishing on CatNet” and the “Murderbot Diaries,” “Moral Code” eloquently and excitedly explores how artificial intelligence can not only set moral boundaries — but also how they can revolutionize the future.

“Moral Code”
Lois and Ross Melbourne | Sept. 20, 2022 | Nonlinear Publishing LLC | Science-fiction
Paperback, 978-0-9976792-0-5, $16.99 | Ebook, 978-0-9976792-1-2, $7.99

About Lois and Ross Melbourne

“Moral Code” is not the first collaboration for Lois and Ross Melbourne. Side-by-side, they grew their software business to a global award-winning organization, as CEO and Chief Technology Officer, respectively. Now Lois’ storytelling brings to life Ross’ deep understanding of the possibilities within artificial intelligence and robotics. Parenting and marriage have been the easy part of this equation.

Lois is now writing books, having published two children’s books about exploring careers. “Moral Code” is her first but not her last novel. You can learn more about Lois at Ross’ current work includes artificial intelligence and robotics. You can learn more about him at And for more about them and the book, you can visit,

Follow Lois and Ross on social media:
Twitter: @RossMelbourne | Instagram: @loismelbourne131

In an interview, Lois and Ross can discuss:

  • Their working relationship as co-authors and how they navigate collaborating together and their own partnership
  • Lois’ past life as a former female tech executive
  • Writing about women in tech and the importance of women in STEM fields
  • Creating an ethically advanced AI, as well as real-life repercussions of AI
  • How tech can improve the world and creating more positive advancements
  • The technology behind the real-life chatbot they created
  • The book’s themes of abuse and the cycle of trauma that abuse creates
  • Creating a hopeful and positive science-fiction story
  • Future projects they’re both working on

An interview with Lois and Ross Melbourne

What’s it like working on a book together with your spouse?

We are accustomed to collaboration. We created and grew a global software company for 18 years. The iterative process of writing a novel felt similar to the creation of software. The initial outline we brainstormed changed substantially. At times, our futuristic dreams of the technology were being announced by MIT or some amazing organization. That made us rethink the timeline or entire plotlines. We are good at working through the creative process together, but it wasn’t always easy. Sometimes, Lois just had to write and then learn from Ross’ review if she nailed the tech’s capabilities.

Where did the idea for “Moral Code” come from?

Ross created the initial premise of AI’s capabilities being used to protect children. We liked the idea of a story showing the positive influence technology can have on humanity, instead of destructive abuse. One day, we started talking about it over breakfast, and several hours later, we had a 10-page outline ready to be woven into a story. We talked it through like planning a movie we could visualize.

How possible is the technology in the book?

We believe some form of this smart dust or nanites from the book will become a reality — when that will happen is harder to say. In our current decade, we will all experience fully conversational AIs that we can see and talk to about anything under the sun. Imagining life without your own Elly to talk with every day, will become like imagining life without your own smartphone. The challenge with extremely small robots is their power source, and this is perhaps the area in the book that we took the most creative license to say “and then magic happens here.”

Do either of you have a background in ethics?

Neither of us have a background in ethics. We both had moms that were clear about raising us to make the right choices. Working with corporations around the world to assist in the analysis of their workforce and succession planning, we learned a lot about the cultural similarities and differences in ethical decision making. We both researched ethical computing capabilities and challenges, which are very hot topics right now. Lois studied the philosophies at the root of many ethics as well.

The book feels cinematic, what are your thoughts about turning it into a movie?

Our early readers continually say, “I read it like I was watching a movie.” We would love to see the message of “Moral Code” reach the masses through film. Lois intentionally didn’t write the characters into a particular appearance. She wants the reader to imagine who is playing the roles of their favorite characters. She also didn’t want to perpetuate body image stereotypes of the personalities. Elly could be quite the sensation in a movie.

Ross, as a tech entrepreneur, how different is inventing the tech for a company vs. for “Moral Code”?

​​If we’re being honest, it’s a lot more fun! When designing software, you are continually constrained by what current technology can deliver and what customers say they are willing to pay for. When designing futuristic technology — even though it’s grounded in what is possible — extrapolating from today’s tech, you can reach for the stars and truly be as creative as you want.

How did you learn about the technology and its possibilities or constraints?

Ross has always fancied himself as a bit of a futurist. He loves thinking about where technology will take us and what new tech might be on the horizon. He is also a generalist when it comes to tech and considers research and development as a hobby.

Ross took lead on the tech, identifying the coolest tech and trends. Lois would then research the planned or imagined usage to translate the details and build them into the plot. We’d discuss the capabilities and brainstorm the interactions which could tell the story.

Why does this story mean so much to you?

We both feel strongly about providing children with the best opportunities for a successful and joyful life. Having seen firsthand the generational cycle abuse can develop, we chose to propose a grander proposition. Technology gets a bad reputation, especially for entertainment purposes. We’d rather plant the concepts for positive uses of tech. Sci-Fi is good for that purpose, i.e. cellphones, Google Earth, etc. Why not spark someone to create a Moral Operating System and a prime imperative of helping kids?

What do you hope readers take away from the book?

What can each one of us do to participate in making our communities (local and global) better places? What are we afraid of and how can we bust past that fear? We challenge people to find ways to break the cycle of abuse negatively affecting kids. Invent and create in whatever medium you prefer — it might lead somewhere amazing.

What projects are you working on next?

Lois is working on a new novel exploring the power of women supporting each other.
Ross is building a robotics startup for the landscaping industry and will continue to do research into AI and robotics.

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