Entrepreneurs around the world are looking for ways to use artificial intelligence to improve their business. But the AI is also a good distraction.
Works of fiction, from movies to TV shows to books, have woven the threads of AI into distant scenarios for decades – long before we lived with it. While some of these stories explore how innovative AI technologies can deteriorate, others probe their importance and potential to improve our world.
(If you’re more of an analytical mindset or looking to understand the intricacies or applications of AI for your business, consider checking out these seven books that also help you understand AI.)
Obviously, AI is a concept that fascinates society. For those looking to take advantage of a fancier route to incorporating AI into their next read – perhaps to spark your thinking about your own company’s AI efforts – consider picking up one of these six novels.
1. Clara and the sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
As told from the perspective of the robot Klara, an “artificial friend”, Ishiguro’s novel explores a dystopian future where robots serve as companions for children. Klara, who is solar-powered, sits in a storefront every day, observing the behaviors of passers-by while waiting for someone to buy her. Eventually, the AI companion is chosen by Josie, a sick and lonely girl who has been “raised”, a process involving genetic modification to improve her chances of success in life. As Josie’s condition worsens, Klara tries to figure out how to help this sick child. And for those looking to emulate the reading habits of entrepreneurial legends, Clara and the sun also landed one of five spots on Bill Gates’ Reading List last year.
2. machines like me by Ian McEwan
What if the English mathematician Alan Turing was still alive? This is just one of the questions that are teased in machines like me, which is set in a cutting-edge 1980s London. The protagonist of the book is a day trader named Charlie, who uses the money from his inheritance to buy Adam, one of the first batches of synthetic humans (the robots are named Adam or Eve). As Charlie gets to grips with his new purchase, his thoughts are also preoccupied with his upstairs neighbor, Miranda, a woman Charlie loves. As the book progresses, the line between human and artificial begins to blur and an unlikely love triangle ensues.
3. Do androids dream of electric sheep? by Philip K. Dick
This 1968 sci-fi page-turner sets the stage for the Blade Runner films. The book is set in the year 2021 and explores the aftermath of a nuclear war (World War Terminus) that sent the people of Earth fleeing to Mars due to radioactive dust shrouding the planet. Settlers of Mars are given robot minions that look like humans and are used for labor. But after some of the androids escape to Earth in rebellion, they are hunted down by Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter living on Earth. Given the resemblance of androids to humans, an empathy quiz known as the Voigt-Kampff test is used to tell them apart from humans (where humans can pass the test while androids cannot) . But as androids become more realistic, the reliability of the test is called into question and complicates Deckard’s bounty-hunting mission.
4. neuromancer by William Gibson
The 1984 novel chronicles hacker and former data manager Henry Dorsett Case, whose nervous system was destroyed by his former bosses after he was caught robbing his employer. This prevents Case from accessing cyberspace, which is called “the Matrix” (already seen, anyone?). Case is then recruited by a new employer: in exchange for his hacking skills, he is promised that his nervous system can be repaired. Case and his new colleagues embark on a new heist, but when tasked with uniting two AI entities (called Wintermute and Neuromancer), the AI’s sprawling reach is soon revealed.
5. Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
For those who’ve ever wondered (or feared?) what it would be like if robots took over the world, this one’s for you. The Archos artificial intelligence program is RobopocalypseThe main antagonist of after the AI program kills its creator and assumes a god complex – a common theme in books and movies of this genre. Archos gradually infects other networks and controls machines until the powerful AI launches its greatest attack: an all-out war between robots and humans. The technology that once aided humanity suddenly begins to target human beings and the roles of who serves who serves begin to reverse, with disturbing results.
6. Speak by Louisa Hall
Speak revolves through the perspective of five characters (including Alan Turing) across different time periods – though the characters are all interconnected in some way. The story explores how they all contribute to artificial intelligence in their own capacity, but it also traces the rise and subsequent fall of “babybots”. One storyline follows computer scientist Karl Dettman (based on real-life computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum) working on an artificial intelligence chat program (nicknamed MARY), which his wife prefers to talk to him about. Another storyline introduces the reader to imprisoned Stephen Chinn, who created the babybot. But this effort eventually lands Chinn in jail due to the babybots’ uncanny resemblance to humans – young children soon preferred socializing with the babybots rather than their peers. And when the babybots are abruptly taken away from the children, a mysterious epidemic begins.