Alex + Ada


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I have spent some time recently lost in the nightmare worlds of Black Mirror,  the British anthology TV series produced, created and often written by Charlie Brooker.  Each episode is a new story, and each tackles some aspect of technology and speculates on the possible consequences of our use of that technology. In “Be Right Back,” Ash and Martha live in a house out in the country. When Ash goes out one night to return a rental van, he is killed. In her mourning, a friend introduces Martha to a way to recreate him through his social media posts and profiles.  This eventually leads to her ordering an android that is animated by his social media. Watch the episode to see how it turns out.

Obviously Her  and  Ex Machina have also explored relationships between men and machine women.  In Alex + Ada   which takes place in a world where robots are part  of everyday life, and there are debates and demonstrations about android rights, Alex is alone, and his wealthy grandmother, who has a toyboy android of her own, insists on buying him his own android. The nameless female android arrives.  Alex tries to be friends with her and eventually names her Ada.  He introduces his friends to her, but he realises that even though she is supposed to learn about his needs from him, she is not a satisfying companion.

Alex then finds out about an underground organization of humans and androids that hacks androids to make them sentient–this is against the law–and eventually they re-program Ada, and she has thoughts and feelings of her own. The rest of the series involves the consequences of the reprogramming. You can see from the covers of the books that this goes from acquaintance to romance to running from the law.  This could be a whole season of Black Mirror,  although the TV show might be more succinct, these books are more sensitive to the characters and the clean simple drawings  and well-written dialogue lead the reader into this world and draw us closer to the relationship that grows between the two of them.

The story, the stories of our relationships with technology need to be explored urgently, and these books do that by animating the technology and giving it a role in the story and allowing Ada to talk back to humankind.

These books only touch on the debates about what what technology is doing to our lives as companies mechanize more and more processes. as every day new developments make more and more jobs obsolete. There is more to be explored.  Fiction can help us explore these difficult issues, because in a way it takes the facts of the situation and speculates.

We are being lied to by our leaders, by our governments, as they support the wealthy and the powerful and blame the subsequent problems on immigrants and and old trade agreements,

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