In this version of 1982 Britain loses in the Falklands, JFK survived his attempted assassination, Carter beat Reagan, Tony Benn becomes PM but is assassinated by a bomb and most notably, Alan Turing lives to make a massive contribution to neural networks and the IT industry. This last has enabled the early progression to a tech savvy world that exceeds our present reality. Driverless cars are common and a firm has sold the first human-like robots: 12 Adams and 13 Eves (the Eves sold out straight away). Our hapless hero, trained in anthropology and law, now makes a meagre living trading from his bedroom. He blows an inheritance on an Adam and invites Sarah, his upstairs neighbour to help create the parameters of Adam’s personality. It’s not long before he and Sarah are an item but when Adam comes to life he warns our hero not to trust her. With access to all sorts of internet files it’s a warning that must be taken seriously and indeed, it does turn out that Sarah has lied in a court case and sent a man to prison. However, when she finally confesses why she did it we are on her side. This is one of the many moral issues the book confronts.
Like many sf books before it, this one considers the many issues surrounding artificial intelligence. When a machines are sentient, are they alive like us? What kind of consciousness will they have? How should we treat them and they us? When we build them to learn what they want how they want they’ll surpass us in intelligence. Will they come to the conclusion that humans should be exterminated for the benefit of the Earth? Or themselves? Turing becomes concerned for robots that - faced with unpleasant realities - find their lives impossible. Our hero’s Adam, having made lots of money on the market, sticks to a code of honesty and honour that is disastrous for his two closest humans. This is complicated by the fact that it’s equally disastrous for an abandoned little boy Sarah is hoping to adopt. It’s bound to end in tears.
McEwan gives us many disquisitions in the voice of the hero/narrator which involve a suspension of disbelief given the narrator’s self-confessed ignorance of Shakespeare and other cultural matters. There’s an amusing episode where Sarah’s ailing but very cultured father mistakes Adam for the human boyfriend. (His name, somewhat ironically, is Charlie Friend.) In real life, scientists say we’re a long way off such human-like robots but these issues need to be thoroughly assessed now, before we create something over which we have no control. No doubt many would argue that robots like this Adam would make a better job of running the world than we do, given what a stuff up we’re making of it.
- Audio CD
- Publisher: AUDIO RH UK - MASS MARKET; Unabridged edition edition (18 April 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1786142252
- ISBN-13: 978-1786142252
- Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.5 x 14 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 181 g
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews