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Literature / The Turing Option

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I'm half a person, half a memory. And I am beginning to believe that I am something not quite human either. Look what they took away. First my life ... than my humanity.

Co-authored by SF veteran Harry Harrison and AI specialist Marvin Minsky, The Turing Option mixes near-future SF and classic thriller.

The main character, young anti-social math genius Brian Delaney, has just finished a project aiming to develop a true artificial intelligence. Then he's shot at the lab, suffering severe brain damage; the AI is stolen, and no one else at the company understands Brian's notes well enough to reconstruct it. A friend and associate, Dr Erin Snaresbrook, makes a risky attempt to save Brian's life by replacing destroyed neural connections with electronic ones. While the police and the military search for the people responsible, Brian works to reconstruct his memory and rediscover his breakthrough, eventually finding that he can communicate with the main processor inside his brain just by thinking about it.

Contains examples of:

  • Brain Uploading: Made with the 'brain' of an AI.
  • The Computer Is Your Friend: Literally. The MI created by Brian becomes his good friend, helps him to escape from military custody, and stays by his side even when he is betrayed by his girlfriend.
  • Computer Voice: Subverted. Actually, an AI intentionally simulates Computer Voice to save its creator's life.
  • The Cracker: And the computer at the same time!
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Though in a narrow sense, because in this book Religion Is Wrong.
  • Cyborg: Brian Delaney.
  • Easily Detachable Robot Parts: An MI that can be mistaken for human at a distance can be carried out of a building without raising suspicions.
  • Emergent Human: All the MI, but particularly Sven. Brian, on the other hand, can be called Emergent Machine.
  • Insistent Terminology: MI rather than AI. "There is nothing artificial about my intelligence."
  • Mad Mathematician: Brian borders on this.
  • Mama Bear: Dr Snaresbrook to Brian.
  • Names Given to Computers: Robin, Dick Tracy and Sven, the last being a distorted form of 'Seven', as Sven was the seventh version developed by Brian (and had memories of all the previous ones).
  • Neural Implanting: The axis of the whole plot.
  • Religion Is Wrong: Religion marks its presence in the novel only when Dolly Delaney, the stepmother of Brian, uses a 'playing God' argument to persuade her stepson to give up his research.
  • Snarky Non-Human Sidekick: Sven. Actually, no one can be sure whether his snarkiness is intentional as he is a computer, but it seems that his emerging consciousness implies a slightly sarcastic sense of humour resembling Brian's.
  • Transhumanism: Not surprising, considering that Marvin Minsky's name is on the cover.
  • Turing Test: Not just in the title.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: Shelly to Brian. It doesn't end well.
  • We Can Rebuild Him: In a way, this is what Dr Snaresbrook does to Brian.
  • What Have I Become?: Brian. In the end he decides that machines are overall more trustworthy than humans. It doesn't help that all the women with whom he had affairs deceived him, he was subject to a couple of assassination attempts, and spent a couple of months under constant surveillance meant to protect him from no-one-knows-whom.