Humanist Archives: July 15, 2021, 10:31 a.m. Humanist 35.142 - sci-fi & imaginative literature on AI
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 142.
Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
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Date: 2021-07-14 06:30:27+00:00
From: Willard McCarty
Subject: imaginative literature on AI
In 1965, Kurt Vonnegut wrote to the New York Times about how he,
then an employee of General Electric in Schenectady, New York,
"completely surrounded by machines and ideas for machines"
happened to write a novel reflecting what he observed. From the
reviewers, he wrote to the Times, he learned
> ... that I was a science-fiction writer...
> I didn't know that. I supposed that I was writing a novel about life,
> about things I could not avoid seeing and hearing in Schenectady... I
> have been a sore-headed occupant of a file-drawer labeled
> "science-fiction" ever since... The way a person gets into this
> drawer, apparently, is to notice technology.
He goes on to observe of his fellow sci-fi writers that,
> there are those who love life in this fulsome drawer, who are alarmed
> by the thought that they might some day be evicted, might some day
> be known for what they really are: plain, old, short-story writers and
> novelists who mention the fruits of engineering and research.
So, to return to my original question: in addition to the stories of those
with whom Vonnegut found himself associated, what others might you
recommend? Again, I very much want to include those stories whose
imagined "fruits of [AI] engineering and research" would actually help us
in thinking about the differently intelligent' artificial interlocutors
we'd find intellectually challenging. Two among my most favourite
examples are Kazuo Ishiguro's novel, Klara and the Sun (2021), and
Steven Millhauser's short story, "The New Automaton Theatre" (1999).
By the way, I'd not want anyone to miss Vollegut's short story,
"Harrison Bergeron", though it's not in my sights for the question I am
Professor emeritus, King's College London;
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews; Humanist
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