On demand: Here are 2 recommendations from me that couldn’t be more different. Both take up the topic of artificial intelligence – one fascinatingly theoretical, one entertaining and almost frighteningly realistic.

Thinking is hard bread, dear machine! – is the headline of Andreas V.M. Herz, Professor of Computational Neuroscience at the LMU Munich. In his contribution to the FAZ, he shows on the one hand what powerful computing and networking capabilities Artificial Intelligence can already offer today. On the other hand, he describes the limits of the reproduction of brain functions and performance. Instead of a comprehensive decoding, he is satisfied with a “colourful mosaic window” of different theories, without any claim to completeness. So far – so theoretical.

Almost threateningly realistic, very lifelike and bizarre is my second recommendation: a novel by Ian McEwan. It was published by Diogenes Verlag and is available here.

“Machines like me”

Charles buys Adam, a lifelike android. Oh yes, the 13 female of the 25 androids for sale were unfortunately sold out, so Charles just bought Adam – out of pure curiosity. He interferes unexpectedly quickly in Charles’ private life, spins his first intrigues and quickly sows mistrust of Miranda, Charles’ girlfriend. And so, in no time at all, a pair of lovers turns into a triangle. Stupid only for Charles that Adam is not only more well read than he is, but also almost always – including the love life. Little by little, Charles’ argument that robots can’t write novels at least becomes more and more questionable and successively invalidated…

A puzzle of fiction and realit

Artificial intelligence thus meets real relationships and social reality. Current topics such as the “Me too discussion” are also integrated into the narrative. In the course of the four hundred pages the desperate fight of Charles against “his” Adam becomes more and more clear, the self-assertion of the robot owner Charles against “the thing” Adam, which is condemned again and again to failure. Who becomes object when, when subject is … that is told fluidly and with always new allusions.With the complex of themes “machine replaces man” this is amusing on the pure narrative level, on the transmission level one quickly starts to think: What if machines become the “better” people – or already are? And what, please, is this “better”?

“Machines like me”, so the ambiguous original title of the book, tells about a machine. It remains unclear whether their suffering and loved ones are real or programmed. And the novel presents people who Adam repeatedly puts in irrational and crazy situations. Miranda’s father, for example, thinks Adam is his friend at his daughter’s side and Charles is the robot. The efforts of the actual human being to prove Adam’s artificiality and his own humanity over and over again seem comical. Well, what evidence is considered valid by whom here – and by what right?

Just Read it!

An entertaining novel, loosely written, fast dialogues, surprising moments – I still can’t understand why all this was put into the early 1980s. So what – then there’s a little tutoring in English history: IRA, Falkland War and so on.

Oh yes: I won’t reveal the cliffhanger with which this triangle story ends here – that’s unfair to anyone who wants to approach the story about the trio unbiased. Just read it!

Best regards and a pleasant summer time.

Frank Wippermann

Foto: Random House Children’s Books