Thursday, March 9, 2017

Goodnight, Melancholy, by Xia Jia

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(AI) The narrator’s therapy includes some cute little robots that help cheer her up. (11,932 words; Time: 39m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average
Recommended By: SFRevu:4 RHorton:5

"," by (translated by Ken Liu, edited by Neil Clarke), appeared in issue 126, published on .

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

Pro: The commentary on natural language and artificial intelligence is spot on. The writer really knows her stuff.

The dialogue is natural and the narration is clean.

Con: There isn’t a story here. The narrator plays with her bots and one day she’s all better. The historical bits about Alan Turing are mildly interesting, but they have no real influence on the story itself.

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3 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. So, in the Turing strand he is conversing with, and taking some level of comfort from, a fictional rudimentary AI whose flaws must be painfully obvious to him as he designed it himself. Nevertheless, he is persisting in talking to it as a form of therapy. (Incidentally, it sounds remarkably like Eliza to me)
    In the future Lindy strand, the narrator is receiving therapy in the form of Lindy, who is a much more sophisticated attempt with emphasis on the non-verbal. The Turing strand feeds into this strand by talking about if and how we could make an AI that could relate to people, and how we might tell. The parallels between the two, especially on the theme of therapy, support the rather fragmentary narrative about Lindy.
    Tldr : I can see what she was trying to do with the parallel narratives, even though I'm not sure it was that successful.

  2. You can see the parallels between the two stories, but they didn't really come together for me. The recovery in the Lindy story seems too easy.