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Interpretation: Freedom is Slavery Kindle Edition
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In "Interpretation," Callens created a...well a dystopian world where artificial intelligence becomes so intelligent it actually gets curious and begins its own experiments. That would be just fine except that by the time it reaches that point, it has taken over the world and the experiments are done on its human subjects. And AI never developed empathy or compassion, so the humans are not being experimented on with how supportive their bed pillows are or in other nice ways.
The story alternates between the life (if you can call it that) of one of those human subjects, Carl, and the perspective of the AI via its communications among its various members (Psychology, Government, Agriculture, et al.) and interpretation of its own data. Carl begins the story as a widowed, loving and devoted father. He lives in an ideal world, a utopian kind of place ("utopian" see what I did there?) where he's a good employee, a good dad, and a good citizen, just like everyone he knows. But one day he begins to see cracks in his world, cracks that eventually broaden until he's exposed to the cold, hard, ugly truth. At first, the reader expects the cracks are developing because something went wrong with Carl's programming (he's human with some kind of technical gizmo implanted in his brain) and that perhaps he'll become a fully-functioning human being. But eventually we learn he's being manipulated by AI throughout the entire book.
And that's the scary thing. Carl was chosen for an AI experiment to see how his hopeful perspective would impact his decisions and behavior. But (spoiler alert) it doesn't really matter because he is completely out-powered by the AI. He could never win, regardless of how hopeful he is. In a sense you could say this book is where "1984" meets "The Power of Positive Thinking" and "1984" is the only one aware of the match.
Negative slant aside, the book is a delicious read. Callens is a truly gifted writer. Not only can he thoroughly immerse his reader in an alternate reality, he can manipulate his words in a poetic way that is just a delight to read.
In “Interpretation,” author Dylan Callens ventures into the world of dystopian fiction. It’s a risky business to steer a tale through the hazards of worn-out tropes and predictable “twists,” but Callens manages capably with intelligence and the right amount of humor.
Good dystopian fiction’s main theme is always the tension caused by the impact of the progress of technology or its collapse and its impact on basic humanity, and Callens delivers a harrowing view interspersed with neat references to those who have gone before (such as a product called “Brave New Burger”). The novel begins with the protagonist, Carl, and his son, Liam, enjoying an outing together. Immediately, the reader knows that all is not as it should be when the characters adopt a uniform approach to the simple act of smiling (rubbery lips stretched back to the ears, eyes squinted just the right way). Subtle references to Orwell’s “doublespeak” emerge quickly with an outlawed class known as “Untruthers,” whom one immediately suspects know some truth that the authority wants to keep hidden.
And who is the authority, anyway? That is part of the puzzle facing the reader, and eventually facing Carl, as well, who awakens from the illusion presented to the general public without quite knowing how. The structure of the novel gives the reader the edge over Carl in his quest to understand reality, providing snippets of conversation between different branches of the governing body and references to a past calamity that human beings have forgotten. His quest, in the tradition of such dystopian fiction as “Logan’s Run,” “Fahrenheit 451,” and “Brave New World” (with a stylistic nod to Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil”), is to rediscover and reclaim what humanity has lost. Peppered with satirical jabs at commercialism and violence as entertainment, “Interpretation” provides a glimpse past a shiny surface perception into a bleak underlying reality.
As usual, Callens’ prose is filled to the brim with literary, philosophical, mythological, and cultural allusion, with existential quotes from Kierkegaard to Einstein.
After years of human initiated experimentation, Artificial Intelligence becomes autonomous in 2084. But even they experience existential crisis, and begin to tinker to ease their ennui.
Humans now live in a perfect society, where good guys always win; war, crime, and sex are non extant. People wear perpetual grins, and love to wash down their Brave New Burgers with a refreshing Ocean Surge.
But is it all an illusion? Carl Winston learns the hard way.
Callens’ writing is spot on and his message particularly relevant today. An absolute must read.
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Carl Winston lives in a seemingly perfect world.Read more