In Machines Like Me, Ian McEwan imagines a world in which humanoids powered by artificial intelligence are on the verge of becoming mass consumer products, kind of like Tesla Inc.’s electric cars circa 2013.
The potential is exciting. Charlie, the protagonist, is a mediocre day trader who becomes rich after he lets the robotic flatmate he purchased take control of his desktop. The robots turn out to be buggy and things go awry, but maybe not so badly awry that the defects couldn’t be fixed in an updated version.
McEwan set his story in the 1980s, a way of saying the future was yesterday. Anyone skimming the Bloomberg News website on Feb. 11 would have seen stories about machines making more money than human stock-pickers in a study by Indiana University and Boston Dynamics Inc.’s robot dog going on patrol for Norwegian oil producer Aker BP ASA. We’re on the verge of something big.
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