Galatea 2.2

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Powers, Richard. Galatea 2.2. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1995. Rpt. HarperPerennial, 1996

In this work, John Updike says, RP "brilliantly and . . . movingly imagined a computer, called Helen, whose artificial intelligence expanded into the realm of soul, will, and personality" ("Soup and Death in America," The New Yorker, 27 July 1998: 76). Amazon.com web site, 5 Aug. 1998, gives the Synopsis: "Richard Powers, a Humanist-in-Residence at the Center for Advanced Scientific Research, gets involved with a project to train a machine to pass a comprehensive exam in English literature—and with the degree candidate against whom the machine is competing." Same site gives a rev. by Nancy Pearl, From Booklist, 05/01/95 noting that the project involves the fictional Powers's using his knowledge of literature to aid "a cognitive neurologist, win a bet," i.e., the one on the creation of AI. Pearl thinks well of the development of Helen; we agree, but will add that Helen develops very interestingly and sympathetically for a neural net, but that one may remain agnostic as to whether or not "she" achieves true AI, "soul, will, and personality." For most readers, however, it will be she, without quotation marks, as Helen passes the Turing Test, and develops into a character in the novel as real as any of the humans. The "U." where the supercomputer operations are located is never named, but the data in the novel are consistent with Urbana-Champaign and the University of Illinois, which would give Helen the same home town, so to speak, as HAL 9000 in A. C. Clarke's 2001, and, perhaps more relevantly, SAL 9000 in ch. 3 of Clarke's 2010; also cf. and contrast HARLIE in D. Gerrold's When HARLIE Was One. (RDE, 05/08/98, 04/01/00, 06/01/99)