Friday, April 29, 2016

Mika Model, by Paolo Bacigalupi

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(SF) A police detective tries to cope with an attractive female robot who confesses to murder. (4,387 words; Time: 14m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended
Recommended By: GDozois:5 JStrahan

"," by , appeared in issue 04/26/16, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: The AI aspects of the story ring true. We're making a lot of progress at making software that make people feel protective--look at how people playing a video game end up trying to protect their animated horse from harm and feel bad if it dies. The idea that the sexbot would automatically scan a human's responses and adjust based on what seemed to be working is also reasonable.

Con: The police aspect of this story shatters disbelief over and over. The robot is evidence. The cop isn't going to let some corporate operative destroy evidence. It's a machine that killed someone. He's not going to just go riding around with it. And where's his partner?

As for the AI, although the algorithms more or less exist today to do a lot of this, they don't work perfectly. Look at how often a very simple system like Siri, Cortona, or Alexa misunderstands. A more complex system would make mistakes too. Something this perfect is hard to believe, although that's a minor issue compared to the police procedure problem.

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Paolo Bacigalupi Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB

3 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. So where's the male *Mike* Model? And do they all look the same that Rivera recognizes this one from the ads? I'd think they'd be more customizable. Also, you wouldn't ruin your valuable robot by stabbing it in the eyeball. Since it receives updates wirelessly, surely you could remotely reset it. Only reason is to make the robot look more human than the lawyer. While I got tired of the detective knowingly letting himself be manipulated, I also didn't like the lawyer's dismissal of him as a typical foolish man.

    1. I thought the same thing about the corporate lawyer stabbing the Mika Model. :-) Mika and Mike Models would make such effective salespeople.

  2. I agree with RSR's ★★ rating. The writing is good and feels spot-on for a classic detective story. The believability of the detective's behavior, though, is tough to swallow. I get that the story is a setup to explore AI personhood, but the detective and DA both seemed too uninformed given their line of work for me to enjoy reading them grapple with these issues. I'm also not a big fan of perfectly human AI's (unlike the imperfectly human Breq in the Imperial Raadch series or even Data of ST:TNG). And don't get me started on perfectly human robot bodies that would be more of a miracle by today's technology than human-like AIs but are just treated as a given in the story. I look forward to writers exploring Siri-level AIs embedded in Mika/Mike Model-level bodies to do all the scut work in our society. :-)