Machines like me, by Ian McEwan.
Ok, this is a good one. I have a love-hate relationship with McEwan’s books, I’ve said this before. I think he’s astonishingly, fiendishly clever, smart, intelligent… call him what you wish… BUT I struggle to warm to his characters… I never bond with them, or actually ‘like’ them for that matter. I’ve read a lot of his books and they’re fantastic… but I feel there’s always something like a glass barrier that stops me from feeling emotionally connected. Even in stories like Atonement (the movie killed me by the way, so good) or the heartbreaking Chesil Beach…
Anyway, I was really interested in reading this because at the time I was researching an essay on algorithms and AI etc…. it was in a way relevant. Also… any excuse to buy a book is valid in my word.
Fabulous. Again, not particularly fond of any of the characters but oh boy, what a clever story. And how many questions the books leaves you with. Unanswerable ones. Scary ones.
The story is set in the 80s, but a different 80s… Turin (the enigma dude) hadn’t died… he had chosen to go prison instead and whilst locked up continued his amazing thinking/inventing, so we’re now in a place far more advanced in terms of AI, autonomous cars etc. I’m sure McEwan had great fun creating this background for the story…. Kennedy doesn’t get killed, the Falkland war is lost… all different… sadly all still a mess so there you go…
The main character buys the latest AI creature with his inheritance money… and the story unfolds.
What makes us human? What is conscience? Do we have power/ownership over ‘robots/androids’ who are infinitively more intelligent than us?
Seriously, if you have any thoughts for the future do read this book, asks yourself if what we’re doing is correct, if being human is really that special? Are we more special? Why? What compels us to frankly carry on regardless? And if you have never thought about the future (and I’m not talking next summer…), do read this book, because the world is heading somewhere, we like it or not.
I don’t want to give away the story, but this is a novel not to miss.
Out of interest… how do you read the title? ‘like’ as in the verb ‘to like’…machines love me… or ‘like’ as in I am like a machine? I’m curious. When he was asked at the Hay Festival he wouldn’t answer… cheeky sod.