More About Good Book

I finished reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel, Karla and the Sun, and want to say something about it without spoiling anyone’s experience of reading it with fresh eyes. Since readers learn on the first page or so that the book is narrated by an AF, an “artificial friend,” a character who is essentially a robot, or an android, or something in between, endowed with artificial intelligence at a level not yet attained in our society, but that’s almost certainly coming, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to reveal that much.

Nor do I think it’s a spoiler to say that by deftly creating such a character in a work of fiction, the author has conducted a valuable thought experiment. How might such a character be programed? What rules should be followed in designing the complex of algorithms that will govern her behavior? In what circumstances might the AF’s behavior deviate from the realm of what the designers thought possible? At what point do observed emotions in such a creature become real rather than simulated? At what point do ethical obligations toward such a creature arise? And will we ever be able to tell?