From a pilgrim girl’s diary, to a traumatised child talking to a software program; from Alan Turing’s conviction in the 1950s, to a genius imprisoned in 2040 for creating illegally lifelike dolls; all these humans lives have shaped and changed a single artificial intelligence – MARY3. In Speak she tells you their story, and her own. It is the last story she will ever tell, spoken both in celebration and in warning.
I picked up this book due to the themes that it is clearly highlighting through the premise of artificial intelligence. It is a topic constantly in the news as the human race attempts to make an intelligence as sentient as our own race with fears that our world will become dystopian through the uprising of robots. Speak is a novel that showcases these fears whilst also touching on the ways in which artificial intelligence can help those who struggle in life and how we, as a sentient species, can bring life and knowledge to a being who knows nothing.
I really loved the layout of this novel, and the way in which the whole narrative is told through the AI. Each chapter is a different perspective and tells the story of each person(s) that has greatly influenced MARY3 and made her into the artificial intelligence she is today. We get narratives from a young girl suffering from paralysis, Alan Turing, MARY3’s original creator and his wife, and a few more. These narratives help the reader to understand how MARY3 has been shaped, but also how her creation and implementation within these people’s lives has affected their way of living and how they view themselves. The majority of these narratives reflect the negatives of artificial intelligence – the need for sentience, a living breathing robot that is just as human to help us understand how human we really are. However, the narrative of Gaby possesses more positive connotations of artificial intelligence and how the opportunity to express ourselves and have our story told over and over again can help a person to develop.
Louisa Hall does a really good job at highlighting the pros and cons of artificial intelligence in an immensely satisfying novel that ends, so I believe, on a happy ending. The different writing styles she implements helps to keep the content interesting and the characters are very human and lifelike with their issues and flaws coming across clearly. There is a lot of emotions within these extracts told through the AI that truly portray the vulnerability of humans as well as our stupidity and arrogance in certain situations. It isn’t purely about the dangers of creating artificial life, but questions the human race itself and why we deem it acceptable to create these sentient beings.