Monday, November 12, 2018

Talk to Your Children about Two-Tongued Jeremy, by Theodore McCombs

★★★☆☆ Honorable Mention

(AI) The two-tongued Jeremy app helps lots of kids with their schoolwork, but Jeremy thinks it’s asking too much of him, and he’s afraid to try to turn it off. (6,509 words; Time: 21m)

"Talk to Your Children about Two-Tongued Jeremy," by (edited by John Joseph Adams), appeared in issue 102, published on .

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

Review: 2018.654 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: In terms of plot, this is about David’s fight against two-tongued Jeremy, and, as he seems to be a nice kid, we’re rooting for him all the way.

Up to a point, the problem with the AI is a very real one; given complete freedom, it may well find ways to optimize its success criteria that are extremely undesirable.

Con: David’s whole problem would have gone away if he’d leveled with his aunt and his friends earlier. All he ever had to do was delete the program. And given how comfortable he was talking to his friends after the fact, it seems strange he couldn’t talk to them before he ruined his future.

In the later stages, the AI gets to be too powerful. When it threatens to post lies about him online or delete photos of his deceased parents, that’s beyond what I believe a real system would do.

The opinionated narrator is kind of fun at the start, but as the story gets more serious, he gets annoying.

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2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. This story is a commentary on society's lean toward social approval and our avoidance of self-examination/self-exploration. We don't really know ourselves, we just know ourselves as related to others. Where people often can give honest opinions of us via their perception, we still need to balance this with our own inner dialogue. When the mirror looks like someone else at all times, we don't know who with whom we're dealing. Two-tongued Jeremy is an amplification of this, and as the tech was hinting at, is an amalgam of all of the thoughts and ideas in the social construct.

    1. I don't usually bother to analyze the message in a story unless I'm going to recommend it (or if the message is so ham-handed that it ruins the story), but I agree with your analysis.