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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Eager by Helen Fox

I thought this started like a cool episode of The Twilight Zone: robots and humans. What happens when robots act and look like humans?

In the novel’s future-time robots complete all the menial work. The world has run out of adequate amounts of oil and an imperfect compromise is achieved by having people live in three classes: the technocrats, the professionals, and the city-dwellers. Only the technocrats can travel freely (or afford the latest technology). Though we don't see much of how the urban dwellers live, the professionals use a lot of virtual simulation to experience traveling the world. Going to your local school requires a robot- escort to keep you safe.

Houses are practically alive with all the work being done by central computers and robots who cook, clean and babysit. Fleur and her brother, Gavin, are the children of professionals who become wary of the newest line of robots who act remarkably human... and seem to be able to bypass the prime robot rule: never harm a human.
These newest robots are made by the dominate corporation: LifeCorp. Fleur and Gavin's family take in a robot that was independently made and is able to learn which makes him unlike any robot yet on the market.

When the newest robots start taking human hostages, everything comes to a head. Not that I would describe it as a thriller; it’s more an unsatisfying science fiction.
Disappointing du to the potential to engage deeper questions never coming to fruition. In fact, when Socrates shows up as a computer hologram, he actually sweats and avoids the questions about humanity and robots that are posed to him. The conversations alluding to these intriguing questions is unacceptable unclear when the house computer tells Gavin that the two of them have already figured out that animals have rights. An error is made when the robot Eager presents his FEELINGS as the reason he KNOWS he's alive. Feelings are the measure of truth?

The uniqueness of a human soul created in the image of God by a transcendent being is never even broached. Rights as stemming from the transcendence of God… nada. Amazing for such a topic. Socrates is presented as unable to understand the concept of robots and willing to speak of free-will but keep slaves. (Where is Peter Kreeft when you need him?) I don't know enough to speak to the slave part, but I believe Socrates
could understand robots, and I suspect he grasped the transcendence in relation to the human soul. In fact, I think it was his reasoning of a God that got him killed.

Best as I can tell, we are supposed to believe that these robots are comparable to human slaves. And the robot, Eager, is supposed to be taken as human not merely human-like.

One more parental caution was a a depiction of one of the character's mom falling in love with a virtual personal trainer to the point she encourages her husband to wear the same leotards. It's funny (for adults). The question is: does this respect and model the commitment to love your spouse to heaven that we teach our children?

It all comes clear (well, sort of) in the end. We’re presented with the idea that since the world evolved from nothing in which nothing mysteriously becomes conscious, humans beings might just as mysteriously create a conscious being. And since Eager the robot is made of all the same particles that create the universe…he is part of the Earth, so he IS. In response to Eager's "enlightenment," the book hits a transcendental note with a comment of "om" and a blossom falling.

It would have been better as a cool, short, open-ended questioning Twilight Zone episode.


See: Catechism of the Catholic Church


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