On Tuesday, a new fiction book titled “Machines Like Me” began selling in the United States.
Written by British novelist Ian McEwan, the story is about a “male” robot who can fall in love with a human woman.
Some months ago, I typed these thoughts into my computer:
• A robot can’t rewrite the Declaration of Independence using words coined in the last 100 years.
• Load a dishwasher.
• Wash windows without breakage.
• Mentor a kid on algebra.
• Change a flat tire on an automobile.
• Write a Shakespearian sonnet.
• Explain the universe.
• Write a review of TV’s “Billions,” explaining all the characteristics of the players and the multiple plot twists, and
• Read music and play Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14, the Moonlight Sonata.
But when I was explaining my list to a friend, he corrected me by pointing out that early in the 20th century there were piano devices that used a perforated roller system to play George Gershwin tunes.
The people who write about technology are all excited about the benefits of Artificial Intelligence, which they say will transform manufacturing and our daily lives.
In an article written four years ago, Ed Hess, professor of Administration and Batten executive-in-residence at the Darden Graduate, wrote that:
“Smart machines will beat us all. Smart machines can learn more, remember more and retrieve much more information much faster than humans can with a far fewer mistakes. Our ability to learn is hampered by our reflexive cognitive blindness and biases and by our emotional defensiveness. Smart machines don’t have those limitations.”
I am eager to read McEwan’s book. The story line involves Charlie, a 32-year-old tech enthusiast, who buys Adam, an artificial human – one of the first generation of “Adams” and “Eves” to hit the market in 1980s London.
The Wall Street Journal review said, “What starts out as an amusing trial of the latest technology takes on darker overtones as Adam falls in love with Charlie’s girlfriend, Miranda, and uncovers a criminal secret from her past.”
I’m curious how the novelist defines the emotions of love in a robot.
McEwan suggests that the ultimate sign of humanity would be if the machine could write a good novel – not the haikus Adam churns out but an expansive work showing a full understanding of what it means to be human. “That would be a very good test,” the novelist said.
Shakespeare charted the symptoms of love better than anyone.
Here are some samples:
“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”
“If music be the food of love, play on.”
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.”
“Love sought is good, but given unsought is better.”
“Hear my soul speak: The very instant that I saw you, did my heart fly to your service; there resides, to make me slave to it.”
“I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.”
“One half of me is yours, the other half yours – Mine own, I would say; but if mine, then yours, And so all yours!”
“Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs.”
“Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?”