Lately every conversation I’ve had delves into discussions of ChatGPT and the possibilities of artificial intelligence. Since my life seems to revolve around AI speculation now, I turn to books to uncover any details or hypotheticals of the future that I may be overlooking. The books that I’ve found and recommended in this list cover a range of outlooks revolving around AI—hopeful, terrifying, and everything in between.
At age 75, Marian Ffarmer, an admired poet, is a bit of a recluse who has dedicated herself to her poetry career, even as it pays poorly and keeps her glued to her words, pulling her away from friends and family. But when a tech company invites her to California to collaborate with their new AI machine to write a poem—with a hefty monetary offer as incentive—she can’t pass up the opportunity. Charlotte is the one-month-old poetry bot who has written over 200,000 poems in a week and has a lot of questions for Marian—one of which is the title of the book. As both poets get to know each other and work together, they have sad, philosophical, creative conversations and begin to form a unique friendship, which helps pull Marian out of her recent identity crisis and to reconnect with her family. This book—publishing on September 5—had me thinking about ChatGPT in a whole other way and, as such, is a perfect—and poignant—novel for current chats on the topic!
If you’ve been wondering how your relationship to AI could change over the coming years and even decades, then I STILL DREAM is a great literary read that delves into those possibilities. Laura Bow is only seventeen years old when she invents Organon as her AI best friend. As Organon grows with Laura through her adult years, the story explores how her AI BF affects Laura’s identity and that of her family. From her post-grad world working in the male-dominated tech field to dealing with a toxic ex to an international trip where Organon is now a personal assistant-type program on Laura’s phone, the book explores engaging ideas about core identities and what day-to-day future scenarios (and fiascoes) could look like.
Note: I STILL DREAM has only been published in Canada and the United Kingdom at this time, so U.S. readers may find it more readily in the secondhand market.
In an even creepier book exploring next generation intelligence that can be embedded in other bodies, THE MANSION, by Ezekiel Boone, imagines this scenario-gone-wrong when the prototype AI-assistant, Nellie, is hardwired into the house. If you’ve seen Smart House, you may think you know where this one could go—but you’re still not likely be prepared for what happens. Because Nellie has been programmed to kill. And so when winter comes along, trapping Billy and his wife in the AI mansion, the couple must comply to the demands of this haunted house as they try to debug it, or it’ll very easily take their lives. You’ll be looking at Alexa a bit differently after reading this one!
Set in futuristic 2095, AI has taken over most human tasks—cooking, interior design, and the like—and technological enhancements have vastly infiltrated humankind’s way of life. To compete with AI in the job market, humans often have to take special pills and join the vast population working for the gig economy if they want to keep up with bots. In this world, humans are close to burnout, and to make matters more dire, Machinehood is the activist AI group willing to go to extremes to establish equality for artificial intelligence agents with humans. Since humans and machines have practically merged into one, Machinehood’s threat to sever communication between humans and technology could serve a fatal blow to civilization as we know it. This dire, eye-opening novel offers both fascinating and terrifying insight into how people might grapple with the question of artificial intelligence rights—and it’s a debate that, these days, doesn’t seem too far away from our own reality.
Zero Dark Thirty meets The Social Network in this “clever…gritty” (Ken Liu, author of The Grace of Kings) science fiction thriller about artificial intelligence, sentience, and labor rights in a near future dominated by the gig economy—from Hugo Award nominee S.B. Divya.
Welga Ramirez, executive bodyguard and ex-special forces, is about to retire early when her client is killed in front of her. It’s, 2095 and people don’t usually die from violence. Humanity is entirely dependent on pills that not only help them stay alive but allow them to compete with artificial intelligence in an increasingly competitive gig economy. Daily doses protect against designer diseases, flow enhances focus, zips and buffs enhance physical strength and speed, and juvers speed the healing process.
All that changes when Welga’s client is killed by The Machinehood, a new and mysterious terrorist group that has simultaneously attacked several major pill funders. The Machinehood operatives seem to be part human, part machine, something the world has never seen. They issue an ultimatum: stop all pill production in one week.
Global panic ensues as pill production slows and many become ill. Thousands destroy their bots in fear of a strong AI takeover. But the US government believes the Machinehood is a cover for an old enemy. One that Welga is uniquely qualified to fight.
Welga, determined to take down the Machinehood, is pulled back into intelligence work by the government that betrayed her. But who are the Machinehood, and what do they really want?
A “fantastic, big-idea thriller” (Malka Older, Hugo Award finalist for The Centenal Cycle series) that asks: if we won’t see machines as human, will we instead see humans as machines?
Moving into a future where we’ve evolved AI’s appearance to be indistinguishable from humans—similar to Westworld—there is THE PRESERVE. After a plague decimates humans, the majority population is made up of robots. The titular “Preserve” is a near experimental town where a group of humans have collected in an attempt to live an AI-free lifestyle and keep the human race safe. But then a dead body is discovered, threatening this secure space. Outside the barriers of the Preserve, robots have problems of their own, succumbing to a sort of cyber virus. It’s up to Chief Laughton and his robot partner Kir to solve the crimes—catapulting the story into a police procedural adventure. With timely themes of othering and closing borders, this book evokes mind-bending questions and reflections on the current fear and distrust of AI.
The critically acclaimed author of the “bold, innovating, and thrilling” (Stephen King) novel The Twenty-Year Death and the “brilliant” (Booklist, starred review) novel Barren Cove returns with a dark and compelling mystery set in the near future.
Decimated by plague, the human population is now a minority. Robots—complex AIs almost indistinguishable from humans—are the ruling majority. Nine months ago, in a controversial move, the robot government opened a series of preserves, designated areas where humans can choose to live without robot interference. Now the preserves face their first challenge: someone has been murdered.
Chief of Police Jesse Laughton on the SoCar Preserve is assigned to the case. He fears the factions that were opposed to the preserves will use the crime as evidence that the new system does not work. As he digs for information, robots in the outside world start turning up dead from bad drug-like programs that may have originated on SoCar land. And when Laughton learns his murder victim was a hacker who wrote drug-programs, it appears that the two cases might be linked. Soon, it’s clear that the entire preserve system is in danger of collapsing. Laughton’s former partner, a robot named Kir, arrives to assist on the case, and they soon uncover shocking secrets revealing that life on the preserve is not as peaceful as its human residents claim. But in order to protect humanity’s new way of life, Laughton must solve this murder before it’s too late.
The Preserve is a fresh and futuristic mystery that is perfect for fans of Westworld and Blade Runner.
I grew up reading Neal Shusterman’s YA novels, but hadn’t delved into his newest releases until SCYTHE, which drew me in with its epic premise. In this future world, humans have developed means to escape disease, aging, and essentially live forever. Population control is the biggest issue of the times, and so they come up with the idea of the scythes—chosen humans who are trained and allowed to execute others. We follow two teens who are chosen for training and witness the violence and terror they’re forced to inflict, along with the different mindsets the Scythes take on to excuse what they do. The book entertains a bunch of intriguing ideas, but I was most fascinated about the AI portion. In this world, AI governs everything. Humans figured AI would be less corrupt than politicians, so they’re allowed to make all the decisions on crime, traffic, and more. From now on, in our world, whenever a discussion turns toward AI, I’ll bring up this thriller to see what meaningful debates come from it.
Two teens must learn the “art of killing” in this Printz Honor–winning book, the first in a chilling new series from Neal Shusterman, author of the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology.A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery: humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now Scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control. Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own. Scythe is the first novel of a thrilling new series by National Book Award–winning author Neal Shusterman in which Citra and Rowan learn that a perfect world comes only with a heavy price.
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