cover image 12 Bytes: How We Got Here. Where We Might Go Next

12 Bytes: How We Got Here. Where We Might Go Next

Jeanette Winterson. Grove, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8021-5925-0

Novelist Winterson (Frankissstein) covers the past, present, and future of artificial intelligence in this fascinating survey. As Winterson writes, “Human or machine, we need all the intelligence we can get to wrestle the future out of its pact with death—whether war, or climate breakdown, or probably both.” Twelve essays, or “bytes,” are broken into four sections: the past, “what’s your superpower,” “sex and other stories,” and the future. Central to her thinking is the idea that cooperation, not competition, will help solve technological problems, and that in the not-so-distant future, “we will soon be living with AI in its own embodied (as robots) and non-embodied states.” She argues emphatically that this merger cannot be successful unless diversity is factored into the programming and data collecting: “If AI and AGI really is going to benefit the many and not the few, people invited to the table must include more people of colour, more women, and more people with a humanities background.” Through well-paced and articulate prose, Winterson makes granular tech know-how remarkably accessible—though she often ends sections with a series of questions that have a tendency to overwhelm. Still, Winterson achieves her goal of provoking critical thought and reflection. This is full of insight. (Oct.)