Frankenstein’s Monster, 2.0

The BBC asks what the 21st Century’s Frankenstein’s monster will be, mostly around the influx of AI novels out there. AI? Dudes, Frankie’s M-Dawg is already here: it’s called “The Internet”. My bet is AI are going to be like everyone else: self-professed decent people who behave monstrously once they have the Internet between them and their deeds. The medium is the message, etc.

I can just picture it: the crowning achievement of all sciences coming together: creation of consciousness from nothing, a mind separate from flesh, the pureness of thought laid bare to examine every 1 and 0. Then they let it learn from the Internet, the greatest repository of human knowledge ever assembled, and six seconds later it’s in an argument on Reddit calling someone a cuck and posting laments about why chicks don’t dig nice guys without bodies.

tl;dr? We ruin everything in advance of it even happening.

Artificial intelligence always seems to be about 30 years away: for decades, futurists and scientists have been predicting within a generation the development of human-like intelligence in machines. Given that even self-driving cars can’t yet look after themselves, it doesn’t seem as though we need to worry about being ruled by sentient machines for a while yet. In fact, the only place where man-made humans have thrived is in the world of fiction.

Two hundred years ago, 20-year-old Mary Shelley won a bet with her future husband Percy Shelley and his friend Lord Byron to write a horror story: she created Frankenstein, the story of a Genevan scientist who created artificial life – and regretted it for the rest of his days. Shelley created more than she knew: her story is not just considered to be the first science-fiction novel, but has spawned an army of monstrous descendants.

What is it that continues to draw writers, particularly those who don’t usually write science fiction, to create artificial humans? How do writers use these characters to tell us about ourselves? What does the 21st-Century Frankenstein’s monster look like?

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