Entrepreneurs everywhere are looking for ways to use artificial intelligence to improve their business. But AI also makes for a nice distraction.
Fictional works, from movies to television shows to books, have woven the threads of AI into far-out storylines for decades–long before we actually lived with it. While some of these narratives explore how innovative AI technologies can sour, others probe its significance and potential for improving our world.
(If you’re in more of an analytical mindset or looking to understand either the intricacies or applications of artificial intelligence for your business, consider checking out these seven books that help you understand AI, as well.)
Clearly, AI is a concept that fascinates society. If you’re looking to enjoy a more fanciful route to incorporating AI in your next read–perhaps to spark thinking on your own company’s AI efforts–consider picking up one of these six novels.
1. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
As told from the perspective of the robot Klara, an “artificial friend,” Ishiguro’s novel explores a dystopian future where robots serve as companions for children. The solar-powered Klara sits in a storefront each day, observing the behaviors of those passing by as she waits for someone to purchase her. Eventually the AI companion is chosen by Josie, an ill and lonely girl who was “lifted,” a process involving genetic modification to improve her chances of success in life. As Josie’s condition worsens, Klara attempts to figure out how to help this sick child. And for those looking to emulate the reading habits of entrepreneurial legends, Klara and the Sun also snagged one of five slots on Bill Gates’s reading list last year.
two. Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan
What if the English mathematician Alan Turing was still alive? That’s just one of the questions that’s teased in Machines Like Me, which takes place in a technologically savvy 1980s London. The book’s protagonist is a day trader named Charlie, who uses his inheritance money to purchase Adam, one of the first batches of synthetic humans (the robots are named either Adam or Eve). While Charlie familiarizes himself with his new purchase from him, his thoughts from him are also preoccupied with his upstairs neighbor from him, Miranda, a woman who Charlie loves. As the book progresses, the line between human and artificial begins to blur, and an unlikely love triangle ensues.
3. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
This sci-fi page-turner from 1968 sets the stage for the Blade Runner movies. The book takes place in 2021 and explores the aftermath of a nuclear war (World War Terminus) that sent the inhabitants of Earth fleeing to Mars due to radioactive dust enveloping the planet. The Mars colonists are given robot servants that resemble human beings and are used for labor. But after some of the androids escape to Earth in rebellion, they are hunted down by Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter living on Earth. Given the androids’ likeness to humans, an empathy quiz known as the Voigt-Kampff test is used to distinguish them from human beings (where humans can pass the test while androids cannot.) But as the androids become more realistic, the test’s reliability is put into question and complicates Deckard’s bounty-hunting mission.
Four. Neuromancer by William Gibson
The 1984 novel chronicles the computer hacker and former data head Henry Dorsett Case, whose nervous system was destroyed by his former bosses after he gets caught stealing from his employer. This prevents Case from accessing cyberspace, which is referred to as “the Matrix” (déjà vu, anyone?). Case is later recruited by a new employer: in exchange for Case’s hacking skills, there’s promise that his nervous system can be repaired. Case and his new colleagues embark on a new heist, but when they’re tasked with uniting two AI entities (referred to as Wintermute and Neuromancer) the sprawling reach of AI is soon revealed.
5. Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
For those who ever wondered (or feared?) what it would be like if robots took over the world, this one’s for you. The artificial intelligence program Archos is Robopocalypse‘s primary antagonist after the AI program kills its creator and assumes a god complex–a common theme in books and movies alike in this genre. Archos gradually proceeds to infect other networks and control machines until the powerful AI springs its largest attack: A full-on war between robots and humans. Technology that once helped mankind suddenly begins targeting human beings and the roles of who’s serving whom begins to reverse, with unnerving results.
6. speak by Louisa Hall
speak rotates through the perspective of five characters (one being Alan Turing) across different time periods–though the characters are all interconnected in some way. The story explores how they all contribute to artificial intelligence in their own capacity, but it also traces the rise and subsequent fall of “babybots.” One storyline follows the computer scientist Karl Dettman (based on the real-life computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum) who works on an artificial intelligence chat program (dubbed MARY), which his wife prefers speaking to him. Another storyline introduces the reader to the imprisoned Stephen Chinn, who created the babybot. But that effort eventually lands Chinn in prison due to the babybots’ uncanny resemblance to humans–young children soon preferred socializing with the babybots instead of their peers. And when the babybots are abruptly taken away from children, a mysterious outbreak is triggered.