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AI NarrativesA History of Imaginative Thinking about Intelligent Machines$
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Stephen Cave, Kanta Dihal, and Sarah Dillon

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198846666

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198846666.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 20 October 2021

‘A Push-Button Type of Thinking’

‘A Push-Button Type of Thinking’

Automation, Cybernetics, and AI in Midcentury British Literature

(p.237) 10 ‘A Push-Button Type of Thinking’
AI Narratives

Graham Matthews

Oxford University Press

Midcentury experiments in AI soon resulted in machines that could devise logical proofs, and solve calculus and visual analogy problems; for the first time in human history, AI moved from the realm of myth to become a real possibility. These technological developments catalysed the publication of numerous AI narratives that explored its impact on contemporary issues such as the labour market, centralization, heuristics, and global communication networks. This chapter contends that midcentury AI narratives must be situated in relation to concomitant technological developments in automation and cybernetics that stimulated widespread concern among government institutions, businesses, and the public. It analyses the varied representation of AI in midcentury novels such as Michael Frayn’s The Tin Men (1965), Len Deighton’s Billion-Dollar Brain (1966), and Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). These novels problematize AI narrative tropes by resisting anthropomorphic tendencies and implausible utopian and dystopian scenarios; instead, they address the societal ramifications—both positive and negative—for humans faced with technological breakthroughs in AI.

Keywords:   Midcentury British literature, AI narratives, Arthur C. Clarke, Michael Frayn, heuristics, mass communication, labour

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