Graphic Memoir: Artificial (A Love Story)

The cover of Amy Kurzweil's book Artificial: A Love Story.

Graphic Novelist/Cartoonist Amy Kurzweil explores the intersections of family, of story, of technology and of Generative Artificial Intelligence in her new graphic memoir — Artificial (A Love Story) — and it sure seems like a book for the age we are in right now.

Her father – Ray Kurzweil — is a well-known figure in the technological world, always seeming to be a few years or decades ahead of others in thinking of the possibilities of technology. He has long talked of his concept of the “Singularity” where computers and humans will be fully entangled in common life experiences. His work is far-reaching, and he is a writer, creator, thinker, teacher.

Amy Kurweil, known for her art as a cartoonist in The New Yorker and beyond, weaves the story in graphic format of her father’s attempts to use the writings of his own father — Amy’s grandfather, Fred Kurzweil, a musician and conductor — to create an early version of an AI Chatbot that will allow Ray and Amy to converse with Fred, long deceased.

This fascinating book explores Amy’s early interactions with the Chatbot created with the words of a grandfather she never knew, as she and her father wrestle with the large questions that emerge from such an experiment, such as where does a person’s life really end, how authentic are the words we leave behind to the person we are, what are the ethics of create an AI Chatbot out of someone’s textual trail, and much more.

Amy Kurzweil captures the confusion of these moments of introspection in this world of advancing technology and what it means to have the possibility of reconnecting or just connecting with family through time, through the use of Generative AI platforms seeded with their words but not their personalities.

Although her book just came out this year, the events that she captures take place over the last few years, way before the release of ChatGPT and Bard and others in the recent wave of Generative AI. This gives an interesting resonance to her story, though, for while the Chatbot of her grandfather — it never quite works as she imagines it might — is revolutionary in many ways and before its time, one can easily imagine some company somewhere is already pitching this as a way for family to “remember” a lost relative through an AI Chatbot App.


Peace (writing it down),

One Comment
  1. I saw your post on social media (Twitter & Mastodon) so decided to take a look. This raises interesting possibilities.

    The “death and dying and dead” industries could have a field day with this. I already get reminders of messages posted to obituaries of friends of mine.

    As my brother’s life ended, notes were shared with family and friends on a site called Caring Bridge.

    Using current and new AI tools I could imagine a fee-for conversation service, connecting current and future generations will those from the past.

    Perhaps will get in on this, too.

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