Machines Like Me

Machines Like Me

And People Like You

Book - 2019
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"Machines Like Me occurs in an alternative 1980s London. 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. 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."--
Publisher: Toronto :, Alfred A. Knopf Canada,, 2019
ISBN: 9780735278196
Branch Call Number: FICTION MCE
Characteristics: 333 pages ; 22 cm


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Sep 02, 2019

Recc by Pat D Aug 2019

Aug 25, 2019

The premise of Machines Like Me is that Alan Turing, one of the brilliant founders of theoretical computer science, did not commit suicide in 1954, but lived on into the London of the 1980s, the setting for the novel. The effect, as McEwan imagines it, is that computing progresses rapidly and jumped years ahead. Thus, the novel is set in a world where computing is as it will be in the midst of Ray Kurzweil’s predicted “singularity,” the point where artificially intelligent technology exceeds the human capacity for understanding and control.
I must confess that I am somewhat skeptical of the singularity concept, which has colored my appreciation of McEwan’s book. I’ll only say that projections into the future are often right in some details, but seldom work out as predicted. Something unexpected always completely changes the outcome. The industrial revolution improved human lives drastically but appears to be reaching its limit with climate change, unlike the utopias and dystopias imagined in the 20th century based on projecting the social implications of industrialization. The digital revolution likely has its own self-generated limits, but we won’t know what they are until they become so obvious, we will be forced to quit ignoring them.
My own optimistic projection for the future is that with machine enhanced capabilities, humans will always have the upper hand over technology and never reach the point predicted by the singularity enthusiasts.
With that off my chest, Machines Like Me has a challenging premise, relatable characters, clear language, and an entertaining plot driven by a robot that is close to mentally and physically indistinguishable from a living human. The robot becomes a vertex in a love triangle with two humans and a player in an ambiguous rape trial.
I read the book with pleasure. The continual mental debate I held with the author on the plausibility of his alternate history added to the entertainment. The moral ambiguities were stimulating. The computer science is a bit shaky for a software engineer to enjoy, but plausible enough. Just don’t take the discussion of NP complete problems too seriously. The book is not a stirring adventure or romance, but it is an entertaining and provocative story for someone fretting about the future.

Aug 03, 2019

Didn't like the characters and too much about British politics.
The robot was the most interesting.

Jul 14, 2019

A futuristic story set in the past about artificial intelligence and the effect it has on a couple. By purchasing as a helper in the household he becomes much more than that.

Jul 05, 2019

Enjoyed reading this book. It is about science fiction with a social angle. Well researched and up to date. The narrative reads like the daily world news. The moral aspect is highlighted for decisions currently facing humanity. I will read other books by the author.

Jun 14, 2019

I loved this novel, as I have loved every text by McEwan that I have ever read, so I might be positively biased.
This novel is a modest page-turner. I obviously wanted to know what would happen to Charlie, Miranda and Adam. Yet the author knows how to make his readers understand that simply finding out what what will happen is only as important as (or less important than) thinking about various issues raised by the plot. There is, of course, the question of man vs. machine, but not only. A few other issues: what is ethic, what makes one guilty, what is love, what is forgiveness… So take your time when reading.
I really enjoyed the alternate history that forms the background for the story. Past meets Future + modified events + invented elements = a rich world to discover. Kinda like in the Thursday Next series.
Let me finish with two trivia:
- In various languages, including Turkish or Azerbaijani, the word "adam" means man. Even if McEwan was not aware of this, it's interesting given the topic of the novel
- The picture of Adam on the cover strongly reminds me of Matteo Bocelli (check out the video of "Fall on Me"). Again, this hints at the blurring between man and machine!

Jun 07, 2019

Absolutely brilliant. It's one of the first books I've read in a long time where I would change absolutely nothing about it. I don't even have the words to begin to describe how much I adore this novel, from its characters and its tone down to the way it paints humanity as a race.

I didn't finish this either, but mainly because I didn't like the protagonist. I did appreciate the alternate history of the Falklands War and the fallout surrounding it, but I just kept comparing this to the series Humans

May 10, 2019

In reference to an earlier comment, thank goodness all novels are not written with Americans in mind. I’m a great fan of McEwans novels and as per usual the ending sees the philosophical punch when the protagonist converses with Turing. If you love his writing this one won’t let you down. JBO

May 10, 2019

I could not finish reading this book because a third of the way through there has yet to be a plot. There’s these tiny page-long scenes interspersed into his stream-of-consciousness poetic waxing about the history of AI and the state of world politics. The main character goes to the doctor for an ingrown toenail and it prompts a multi-page reflection on the history of medicine. Not only is this so incredibly irrelevant to the plot, it’s also mind-numbingly boring. We get it, you did worldbuilding research, but we don't need to know every tiny detail about how your alternate history world is different, especially when it's not that different.

The "what makes us human?" android story has been done a dozen times before, and I can't see that McEwan is bringing anything new to the table.

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Jun 04, 2019

It was religious yearning granted hope, it was the holy grail of science. Our ambitions ran high and low - for a creation myth made real, for a monstrous act of self-love.

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