A teenager living alone in the brutal slums of South Africa. An ex-soldier and computer specialist grieving for his family. A brilliant young physicist acting as the spokesperson for a radical new charitable organization. The futures of all three of these people are bound by ANI, the world’s first true artificial neural intelligence, and the first computer with human emotions. With her EDAI educational programs, ANI is changing the world we live in, providing free education to any who want to learn, starting with those places most affected by grinding poverty.
When a mysterious plague kills millions of people almost overnight, those who don’t trust ANI blame her for the deaths and begin calling for her to be shut down. When Aaron Parker is sent to Johannesburg to investigate one of ANI’s many facilities, he finds a utopia, filled with those rescued from the streets and empowered to change their own lives. But what is the real cost of this bright new future, what are the consequences of creating a machine with feelings, and how was it achieved? ANI’s creator has disappeared, and now she is beyond all human control. Will humanity pay the ultimate price for a better world?
Our Review (Paid)
To be honest, I'm struggling a bit with this one. The book starts wonderfully. The style of writing is easy and brilliantly well done. Characters are introduced that you immediately find ways to relate to. The over arching concept of AI is relevant and the premise well thought through. However, the ending of the book is very abrupt and left me with more questions than answers - is there to be a book 2 then? Or is the ending left to our own imagination? It was as if the authors set out on a magnificent foray only to decide halfway through to finish it as soon as possible. Frankly, I'm puzzled and I think the authors missed an opportunity I really do.
The book's Amazon description is accurate. I too felt the concern and mistrust around the project to bring ANI to life. From day one, the project has secret and sinister undertones that the people tasked with monitoring the project are unaware of. The creator of ANI has a second and deeply personal objective it seems. The world ANI is able to create as a result is truly a utopia. I thought there were some good observations on what emotions are and how humans use them in the book as well. Interesting facets of viewpoints on how humanity is and where it may go that are very relevant in today's rapidly changing and increasingly nationalist world. I can't give too much more away as to do so would take something away from actually reading the book but as stated above, things twist and turn in the last few pages of the book and one is left wondering what happened? Why didn't the authors explore the concept further? Why did they not deliver on the salivating promise of the opening half of the book?
A thought that was at the back of my mind as I progressed through the book is what would it like to be God? ANI has Godlike qualities and through her activities, is literally able to experience everything and even guide people through their own experiences. She is God-like in many respects and there is a partially explored strand to the book that explores the concept of being God-like. For me and my interests, this was a fascinating extension to the traditional AI story - such as like that of 2001 - A Space Odyssey and its AI computer HAL 9000. In fact, the approach to the story was refreshing and different to many books I have read that include a super computer or AI.
Despite my frustrations with the ending - which is a good thing really because plainly I was captivated by this story and my disappointment is a result of that - I think the book is well worth buying and reading. It is truly well written and there are a lot of strands to the story that will get your thoughts ticking in different and perhaps unfamiliar directions.