Saturday, February 29, 2020

Machines Like MeMachines Like Me by Ian McEwan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I risk getting a visit by the author to have my pet nailed to your coffee table, but I call this Science Fiction. He's now an honorary SF author even if he's never read a single SF book. *slow clap*

That being said, let's get down to the merits of this book. It's competent in two ways, but only to a degree.

It details many of the new, well-established concerns for creating real-life AIs without getting bogged down in the minutia of things like creating a truly moral artificial being. Yes, it touches on the morals and especially the ethics of human life, but it seems to be more wrapped up in the loss of agency (like regular humans) rather than actually finding an alternate, machine-friendly, route out of the intellectual messes. The author did bring up the original issue of computer chess and Go and pointed at that very theme for us to take a gander at, but he never followed through.

The other way was more to my liking but in the end, it really didn't have much of a point. I'm talking about the worldbuilding. I really enjoyed a world that still had Alan Turing in it, getting rich and powerful and solving the P versus NP problem. I probably would have had more fun if that was the topic of the story, in fact, and not the well-worn path of "androids -- can they be human?". The alternate history was full of great details and interesting bits, but then, if they don't really serve a purpose (and they really don't in the core of THIS tale), then I wonder why he bothered. Was there supposed to be a different end than this, one that tied everything together? I don't REALLY get the impression that this was a character study.

An ethics study, yes, but not a character study.

Even so, it just boiled down to average people making some questionable decisions, paying for their poor judgment, and us feeling sorry for anyone who lives in the real world. I mean, if superior beings all decide it's better to commit suicide than to have to deal with us, then that's pretty damning, right?

The novel wasn't THAT bad. It's quite average, however, for an SF.

Maybe it'll become a bestseller on the mainstream market.

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