Artificial Life After Frankenstein

Eileen Hunt Botting. Univ. of Pennsylvania, $34.95 (306p) ISBN 978-0-8122-5274-3
Botting (Mary Shelley and the Rights of the Child), a University of Notre Dame political science professor, offers a thoughtful study of modern ethical issues concerning technology in the context of Mary Shelley’s novels Frankenstein and The Last Man. Pushing back against scenarios that see humanity as doomed by its technological creations, Botting finds an optimistic sense of possibility in Shelley’s works. Interpreting Frankenstein’s monster as an early example of artificial intelligence and genetic engineering, Botting affirms the creature’s humanity and locates his destructive tendencies in his abandonment by his human creator. Rather than fearing the Singularity—the moment AI surpasses humanity—or trying to ban genetically engineered beings, society should, Botting argues, embrace them with compassion and a sense of commonality. With The Last Man, about the “ostensibly sole human survivor of a global plague in the year 2100,” Botting looks at how the protagonist gains a sense of hope from his conviction in the “existence of other sentient and intelligent life forms in the universe.” Botting’s literary study succeeds as an impressive and resounding challenge to technology-driven doomsday scenarios, replacing these with a vision of a gentler, kinder future in which humankind preserves both its existence and its best, most humane qualities. (Dec.)
Reviewed on : 09/15/2020
Release date: 12/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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