Machines Like Me
Penguin Random House Australia
Britain has lost the Falklands war, Margaret Thatcher battles Tony Benn for power and Alan Turing achieves a breakthrough in artificial intelligence. In a world not quite like this one, two lovers will be tested beyond their understanding.
Machines Like Me occurs in an alternative 1980s London. Charlie, drifting through life and dodging full-time employment, is in love with Miranda, a bright student who lives with a terrible secret. When Charlie comes into money, he buys Adam, one of the first batch of synthetic humans. With Miranda’s assistance, he co-designs Adam’s personality. This near-perfect human is beautiful, strong and clever – a love triangle soon forms. These three beings will confront a profound moral dilemma. Ian McEwan’s subversive and entertaining new novel poses fundamental questions: what makes us human? Our outward deeds or our inner lives? Could a machine understand the human heart? This provocative and thrilling tale warns of the power to invent things beyond our control.
A novel set in an alternative 1980’s but not too alternative; Ian McEwan presents a viewpoint that is credible and relatable. I found it particularly interesting that he reminds us of the dialogue that surrounded the introduction of computers in the workplace back in the early 80’s; the question of what will we do with all the spare time computers have freed up for us? Sound familiar? Where is that time?
Sci – fi is not a genre that I usually find myself drawn to (unless you count my delight with early Stephen King short stories) however this book reads smoothly, is engaging and presents a few moral dilemmas relating to the meaning of life and leading an life of integrity. I enjoyed looking through a lens of “what ifs” and possibilities that artificial intelligence offers the human race. The big question for the reader, what does it means to be human?
An enjoyable and thought provoking read.