Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan
In Machines Like Me, Ian McEwan imagines a world in the past that is also the future. Britain has lost the Falklands War and driverless cars are the norm. Alan Turing, the great scientist, is also still alive and has developed his theories of artificial intelligence into sophisticated open-source programs. A small tech company has used these to create a small batch of highly sophisticated (and expensive) life-like robots.
With the aid of an inheritance, Charlie, a barely successful day-trader, purchases an ‘Adam’. Charlie is in love with Miranda, who shares an interest in AI and lives in the flat above. Charlie invites her to share in setting up Adam’s personality. When Adam comes to life, he is caring, sensitive and protective. He also falls in love with Miranda, successfully takes over Charlie’s day-trading and grapples with complex ethical problems. In essence he becomes a living, autonomous and independent, thinking being.
No doubt there are people working now on creating machines like Adam; what remains to be seen is how we will relate to them, and how they, in turn, will relate to us.
Machines Like Me is funny, challenging and, at times, weird and confronting. It’s always compelling.