cover image Artificial


Amy Kurzweil. Catapult, $30 (352p) ISBN 978-1-948-22638-7

Part meditation on immortality, part profile of the author’s father—inventor and artificial intelligence pioneer Ray Kurzweil—this finely crafted graphic family memoir from New Yorker cartoonist Kurzweil (Flying Couch) takes an intimate approach to philosophy. Ray, whose Jewish parents narrowly escaped Vienna during WWII, hopes to connect with his late musician father by creating an AI “Dadbot” derived from his somewhat cryptic journals. Though Amy’s father is alive and much more knowable, there are parallels in her own pursuit to truly understand him and their shared legacies. Her comics convey echoes and meta-elements of the layered relationships between them all: an image of a skeleton hand repeated filmstrip-style is juxtaposed with her own hand holding a recording device; time spins on clock faces in a hospital waiting room; Amy’s childhood photo, painted portrait, and emoji avatar populate the same page. Ray’s obsessions come across as highly creative defense mechanisms. He believes information can translate to immortality, whereas Amy, who spends part of the narrative navigating a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend, an ethics professor, concludes that only love allows people to live forever. References range from Greek philosophers to Westworld, Pinocchio, and Alice in Wonderland. This melancholic yet loving investigation gets at how AI is as much about the past and what humanity has already created as it is about the future. (Oct.)