Inside the Minds of Spiders, Octopuses and Artificial Intelligence
Adrian Tchaikovsky’s “Children of Time” is about an advanced civilization built by sentient spiders. A sequel, “Children of Ruin,” is about a society run by superintelligent octopuses. I love these books. They’re remarkably serious about their premises, and by the end, it’s human civilization and our limited sensorium that come to seem strange.
But Tchaikovsky’s latest book, “Children of Memory,” ostensibly about crows, read as something very different to me: the best fictional representation I’ve read of what it is like to interact with, and perhaps even be, an artificial intelligence system like ChatGPT. It was a very strange read at this moment. And it made possible an episode I’ve been wanting to do for months.
Long before we have to face the question of whether A.I. is sentient, we will have to face the question of whether it is creative, and that will turn into the question of whether we, truly, are creative. And so Tchaikovsky and I talk about whether there’s a meaningful difference between human creativity and A.I. problem solving, why he believes this is a “profoundly scary time” to be a writer or a designer, what an explosion of A.I.-produced content would mean for human society and the human spirit, whether the advancement of A.I. could exhaust avenues for human originality and much more.
"Melancholy Elephants" by Spider Robinson
Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve
Soldier of the Mist by Gene Wolf
After Atlas by Emma Newman
Babel by R. F. Kuang
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You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.
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