, Astro Teller deals with the issues of emerging machine intelligence without the usual simplifications and moral generalizations. It's the story of an artificial intelligence researcher and her creation, a program named Edgar, who develops self-awareness and must come to terms with its own existence. Through their e-mail--their only means of interaction--we watch them deal with the ramifications of Edgar's development, which includes the government's desire to capture Edgar and our cultural fear of Frankenstein's monster. Yet, while Exegesis
draws upon the Frankenstein mythos, as well as the myth of Pygmalion, this isn't the story of science creating a monster. Instead, it's an exploration of what it means to be aware, of how humanity may interact with other forms of intelligence, of scientists' responsibilities to both the world and to their creations, and humanity's responsibilities in return. We do not see the scientist playing God so much as endeavoring to be a good parent. That parenting comes complete with all the hopes, fears, and uncertainties involved with bringing something precious and new into the world, and guiding it to an unknown and largely uncontrollable independence. Edgar, unlike such intelligent computer characters as HAL, Colossus, or Mycroft, is a fully realized, well-defined protagonist--familiar due to its human programming, yet alien in its mode of perception and thinking. Although it's impossible not to view this as a cautionary tale against a day when we will truly have to face the issue of self-aware machines, it is also a touching love story and pulse-quickening thriller--a complex story told very simply.
What if . . . artificial intelligence (AI) gurus achieved their holy grail? What if . . . the machines that process our words and crunch our numbers began to talk back? If AI mimics the operation of the human mind, would an AI agent have a personality, quirks, free will? And how would ordinary folk--and authority figures--react to this new, alien "being" ? A first novel by a grandson of nuclear physicist Edward Teller offers one set of answers. Exegesis
consists largely of e-mails between Berkeley graduate student Alice Wu and "Edgar," a cyber pen pal seemingly "created" by Alice's AI doctoral research. Edgar is an entity consumed by an overwhelming need for information and is resistant to the efforts of both Alice, who is struggling to replicate her "invention" to protect her academic "ownership" of the breakthrough, and the anxious National Security Agency operatives, who are trying to "make [Edgar] human" and to "teach [him] how to hate." Edgar may be the most likable "character" in this involving debut novel. A featured selection of Book-of-the-Month Club and Quality Paperback Book Club. Vintage plans aggressive promotion. Mary Carroll