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AI, Others and human expectations

March 18, 2011

Genesis - Bernard Beckett

Jerome Bruner writes amazing stuff about narrative!  He explains that: “stories need an idea about human encounters, assumptions about whether protagonists understand each other, preconceptions about normative standards.”[1]

These ideas, assumptions, and preconceptions are at the heart of how I read Bernard Beckett’s Genesis.  The author uses them to play on the reader’s expectations.
Beckett hides Anaximander’s artificial intelligence from us by presenting us first with experiences (the examination, especially) that fit what we ‘know’ of life.  By omitting mention of AI until later, he has us apply our imaginations and fix our beliefs before he even introduces AI as a possibility in this storyworld. We expect a story ‘about human encounters’ because we’re set up to expect it, but at the end of the novel we realise we have empathised with an android – a ‘person’ quite different, quite Other, quite non-human.

[1] Narrative construal of reality – Jerome Bruner P130 (oops with the quote again – when I find it, I’ll update!)

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