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30 April 2024

The Reading Doctor: Artificial Intelligence

Works of art, in all mediums, are now being created by means of artificial intelligence. This column, though, the Reading Doctor has flipped the script: these works of art take artificial intelligence as their subject.

  • Narrated in the first-person voice of Klara, an Artificial Friend, Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro tells the story of a machine made to be a human companion, whose observations of people are a poignant social critique and an exploration of what it means to love.
  • In an alternative version of London in the 1980s, a couple buys one of the first synthetic humans and designs their perfect companion, only to find themselves enmeshed in both a love triangle and a moral dilemma, in Ian McEwan’s Machines Like Me.
  • The short story collection I, Robot by Isaac Asimov introduced his three laws of robotics, inspired television and movie adaptations, and had a significant influence on the development of the ethics of artificial intelligence.
  • In cobbling together and then animating a man, Dr Frankenstein creates a monster, but the question at the heart of the classic novel by Mary Shelley is, who is the most monstrous, the creature or his creator?
  • A dystopian vision of the future of creativity, I am AI by Ai Jiang is a novella in which a cyborg under the guise of an AI writing programme has to hustle in a soulless, capitalist world.
  • Miscommunications and failures in connection occur across time and place, between people and technologies, in Speak by Louisa Hall, a novel which explores the universal desire to express oneself, and the accompanying fear of not being understood.
  • Wendy Xu’s graphic novel, The Infinity Particle, tells the love story of a young inventor and a humanoid AI, bringing into question preconceived notions of humanity, freedom and autonomy.
  • For YA readers, Scythe, by Neal Schusterman, depicts a world made perfect under the care of a benign supercomputer; having eliminated death, the population is controlled – gleaned – by an elite group of professional scythes.
  • A modern rewriting of Robinson Crusoe for middle readers, The Wild Robot by Peter Brown sees a robot come to abrupt consciousness all alone on a wild and remote island, and must adapt to survive, learning from the island’s unwelcoming animal inhabitants.

Do you need a reading prescription? Submit your question for the Reading Doctor here.