HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins
Loading...

A Working Theory of Love (edition 2012)

by Scott Hutchins

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
133990,390 (3.38)1
None

None.

Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 1 mention

Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
A fascinating novel about artificial intelligence: a man is hired to input a lifetime's worth of journals written by his father into a computer to try to build a machine that can pass the Turing test. Meanwhile, dude's own life is a mess. There's also some sex with hot girls.

I really did like this book; I wish I could give it 4.5 stars. ( )
  dysmonia | Apr 15, 2014 |
Suppose you worked as part of a team to create an artificial intelligence, which would be successful in a competition using the Turing test (a test of a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.) Now, suppose, the "personality" of the computer was based on the diaries of your father, a somewhat traditional, stern, Southern physician, who killed himself when you were 18.

To this add that you are a divorced man, living in San Francisco, sorting out various relationships with the women in your life, as well as sorting out your relationship with your father, via your talks to the computer based on his personality. Add in a quirky relationship with a younger woman, who is involved in an almost cult-like organization focused on finding the inner click in the limbic system.

This debut novel (with a title I really like) took this premise and created the story of Neill Bassett. I probably might not have picked this book up had it not been for the Stanford Book Salon (first selection of this year's crop), but I'm glad I did. It moved as a slowed pace for me, which was surprising as I pretty much rip through books. But it was an interesting slant on a slice of life, combining a science which interests me with a city I love. I never really engaged with Neill, until the end, which surprised me, but I still could admire his journey. ( )
  bookczuk | Sep 23, 2013 |
This novel is full of surprises. It gives the impression at the outset that it will be a geeky exploration of what it is to be human, set in San Francisco with lattes. Okay, I’m always up for a bit of Turing testing, and lattes. Of course you expect it to be hipsterish with hook-up sex and outré kinkiness, but with lattes. But as you get into the book a bit, get beneath the surface so to speak, you find there is another entirely more serious, even dark, side to this story. Love, platonic and sexual, maternal and paternal, becomes the figured base of the tale, with the more problematic relationship between fathers and sons driving things forward. All of this is complicated by the fact that one key actor is less than actual, being the dead father of the protagonist, Neill Bassett, Jr., synthetically realized through scanning in the detailed journals of Neill’s father into a proto-AI computer project appropriately named Dr. Bassett. As Neill’s synthetic father gains depth and character – i.e. becomes more human – so too Neill’s frustrated relationship with his father gains heft. However, this is no ordinary son-meets-dead-father story since Neill’s father was a suicide. Did I mention that the novel gets a bit dark?

Not everything works here. The writing is a bit choppy. The presentation of software development is a bit implausible (one of the first rules of programming is to have a way to back out of changes, which is not followed here presumably for plot device reasons). The on-again off-again sexual relationships that Neill has are at times distasteful and at times fantastical (or maybe I’m getting old). The ending is contrived and hurried. Numerous characters (such as Neill’s brother) and themes (such as Turing’s own sexuality) are given short change.

But enough does work to at least make the novel enjoyable. There are, I suppose, two different kinds of novels of ideas. In one, the author thinks through all of the implications and ramifications of his ideas first and the novel is, in effect, the culmination of that thinking. In the other, the author appears to be doing his thinking in the novel itself, muddling down some blind alleys, chopping and changing when necessary, but, obviously, reaching some kind of viable conclusion (as least viable enough to convince someone to publish the book). This is the latter kind of novel. If you prefer the former, you may find this a bit too draft-like in its execution. But I found it to be passable. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Sep 17, 2013 |
A working theory of love melds a fairly standard story of twenty-something ennui with a more interesting, and original story of emotional connection. The result doesn't wholly work, but the second component elevates the book over typical offerings in the genre.

Neil Bassett's first marriage has already ended, and it took any sense of connection with it. But his job is offering him an opportunity to reconnect - to the ghost of his father, animated through journals and artificial intelligence.

One side of this story - alienated twenty-something struggling with lack of purpose - is very familiar. And I didn't really feel that Hutchins bought anything new to the execution. As a character, Neil's feelings are understandable, but to be honest, he is kind of self-absorbed and selfish.

However, the other side - conversations with a computer intelligence powered by the father's journal - are much more interesting. Perhaps this resonated with me because I bought the book in response to my own father dying this year. But Hutchins manages something quite challenging - a computerised voice that feels both realistic (i.e. something a computer could actually say) and actually interesting. The development of the personality is interesting and reminded me in some ways of HAL in 2001.

The book kind of peters out with a more conventional ending from its putative genre. It wasn't unsatisfying, per se, but I felt it represented somewhat of a turning away from the less marketable, but more interesting aspects of this novel. ( )
  patrickgarson | Aug 2, 2013 |
It felt really superficial. ( )
  heike6 | May 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
The scenes in which the researchers volley with “Dr. Bassett” are the most electrifying in the book, and even though the journey through family history and the story of Neill’s romantic and sexual escapades are beautifully written and consistently engaging, I found myself eager to get back to the undead doctor, who in his halting, awkward fashion is the most affecting character in the book
 
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

Book description
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

When Neill's father committed suicide ten years ago, he left behind thousands of pages of secret journals, journals that are stunning in their detail, and, it must be said, their complete banality. But their spectacularly quotidian details, were exactly what artificial intelligence company Amiante Systems was looking for, and Neill was able to parlay them into a job, despite a useless degree in business marketing and absolutely no experience in computer science. He has spent the last two years inputting the diaries into what everyone hopes will become the world's first sentient computer. Essentially, he has been giving it language--using his father's words. Alarming to Neill--if not to the other employees of Amiante--the experiment seems to be working. The computer actually appears to be gaining awareness and, most disconcerting of all, has started asking questions about Neill's childhood.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
51 wanted2 pay3 pay

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (3.38)
0.5
1
1.5
2 5
2.5 1
3 11
3.5 4
4 8
4.5
5 4

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 92,094,372 books! | Top bar: Always visible