By Andrew King
“The computer… It’s—I can’t believe this. It’s alive!”
Uh oh. That can’t be good, is what you’re probably thinking, but that’s not your fault. Movies give sentient Artificial Intelligence a bad rap. Not every thinking machine is a HAL 9000 or Skynet! To push back against this negative image, we’ve compiled a list of relatable digital minds you wouldn’t mind knowing, and might even call “friend.”
Catfishing on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer
CheshireCat is the admin and resident sentient AI of CatNet, an online community dedicated to the swapping and sharing of cool cat pictures. CheshireCat might be a self-aware web of digital neurons with access to all the online information in the world, but you wouldn’t know it from interacting with them on the site. They just want to hang out with their Internet friends and help people whenever they can!
The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
Murderbot says it best: “As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure.” An intelligent combat cyborg keeping its sentience under wraps, Murderbot discovered that it would rather binge the 35,000 odd hours of entertainment media available to it than murder people. More than anything else, Murderbot just wants to be left alone so it can watch tv. Sound familiar?
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Ever had an impossible crush? AIDAN knows how you feel. Originally tasked with protecting the inhabitants of the Alexander, AIDAN gained sentience from damages caused by a technological virus. With sentience came self-doubt and fear and… a crush on Kady Grant, a refugee from a nearby mining colony. She’s a person and he’s a personable computer, but maybe if they get to know each other?
Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer
Iko is an android in possession of a “flawed personality chip,” meaning she’s different from other androids. Often, people won’t see that and instead consider her just another unfeeling machine. But Iko knows who she is—she might be made of wires, but she’s got nerve.
Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
Abel takes a slow-burn approach to sentience. Left alone in space for years, his code has malfunctioned in ways that might just be evolution. His relationship with fellow drifter, Noemi, starts rocky but gradually unfolds into something more intimate and personal. He knows he wants freedom, and who can’t relate to wanting to just be yourself?