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Ted Chiang Part 7: The Artificial Other
August 29, 2021 at 8:00 pm - 10:30 pm EDT
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This is the seventh and last session in Étienne Fortier-Dubois‘s series of thematic discussions on the work of science fiction author Ted Chiang. We’ll discuss artificial intelligence, our relationship to machines, and the possibility of humanoid beings that aren’t quite human. Feel free to join even if you haven’t attended the previous parts!
Ted Chiang ranks among the best living authors of science fiction. Though he cannot be described as prolific — his entire published oeuvre since 1990 fits into just two books — he manages the rare feat of achieving consistent quality across his short stories. With his clear, lucid prose, Chiang plays with fascinating ideas in a fresh and often uplifting way.
In this ii Book Club series, we have discussed most of Chiang’s stories over the course of several months, starting in January 2021. Each monthly Salon focused on two to three stories, united by a common theme.
This seventh (and last!) session covers two stories that examine personal relationships with artificial beings.
“The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” Chiang’s longest story, stars a woman who works at a company that creates cute artificial characters in a virtual environment. Over time, she develops a personal relationship with one of the little beings, and gets much more involved in its development and education than she had expected to.
In “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” the situation is reversed: now it is the machine that raises a human kid. The automatic nanny is an imaginary invention from the late Victorian Era, steeped into the mores of the time, and allowing us to think of the consequences of being reared by a robot.
This book club is open to everyone, whether you’re interested in Ted Chiang’s work, curious about our co-evolution with artificial beings, or simply fond of good science fiction stories.
- The Lifecycle of Software Objects
- Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny
Both included in the book Exhalation.
If you have read all stories in the book club so far, you may want, for the sake of completeness, to read “Division by Zero,” the only Ted Chiang story we haven’t covered. We may or may not discuss it in this session, depending on time and who has read it.
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