We’re arriving at the extinction-level event, and the great remaining question for humans, staggering through our days of tumult and nights of penetrating dread, is the vigor and force of our response. This Summer issue is a clarion call for the recalibration of contemporary political pieties, a visceral lament on the moral cavity of modern living. It’s also an incitement to riot — an attempt to activate the weapons of panic, hope, and collective action. A must read for the dangerous days ahead!Get this issue
Ian McEwen’s latest novel, Machines Like Me, is a modern Frankenstein fable. While set in a counterfactual 1982 London — where the Beatles are still together, and Alan Turing is alive — it bears many similarities to our technologically-advanced world of today. The plot turns on the relationship between Charlie, a burnout thirty-two-year-old who’s recently come into an inheritance; Adam, a sophisticated android with “plausible intelligence and looks” (and for which Charlie paid a great sum); and Miranda, an upstairs neighbour who is, inevitably, drawn into a love triangle with both man and machine.
As in Mary Shelley’s classic, the protagonist narrates the action, but the robot plays romantic lead. Adam is high-minded — an “artificial man with Kantian morals and a fully functional phallus” — but in a moral bind. Charlie is the king he’s programmed to serve, but Miranda is the queen he pines for. “We’re in love with the same woman,” he says to Charlie, who, having listening to an evening of their lovemaking, regards himself, memorably, as the first man “cuckolded by an artifact.”
And so Charlie resolves to do the only sensible thing: shut the machine down.
“I approached the table and as I passed behind Adam, I reached for the special place low on his neck. My knuckles brushed against his skin. As I positioned my forefinger, he turned in his chair and his right hand rose up to encircle my wrist. The grip was ferocious. As it grew tighter, I dropped to my knees and concentrated on denying him the satisfaction of the slightest murmur of pain, even when I heard something snap.”
And says the machine, “I don’t want you or Miranda ever to touch that place again.”
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