Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was a very good read. As in Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro makes a few small tweaks to the world, but does this just out of the reader’s sight. As the resulting ripples propagate around the corner, we learn a great deal about what we expect, value and indeed what we are as intelligent actors.
The robots (“Artificial Friends”) which are the assumed focus of the story are skilled observers who reflect the actions and attributes of the humans. They can even go beyond imitation and draw novel conclusions from observation and experience. This is perceived as, and is, intelligence. But like all science it is just the best guess of the observer at the time and is limited by incomplete information and shaped by the expectations of both self and society. Causes and effects are often too easily and incorrectly ascribed. This is true regardless of the nature of the observer, whether they are human or artificial.
The naïve intelligence exhibited by both human and robot plays out with very different outcomes. Some mildly tragic in the acceptance of the expected norm and lack of the realisation of what might have been. Others quietly satisfying in the growth and maturation that is a natural part of learning from experience.
In my reading the most impactful message comes from the creativity exhibited by a minor character who has only ‘natural intelligence’. Not only does he appreciate the experience and observations of AI and human alike, he also is the only player in the story to actually create something new.
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