Artifice: A Novel
Humanity’s greatest invention could be our last.
Archie’s involvement in the artificial intelligence project known as Janus is limited to routine diagnostics. But when she discovers that she and everyone else have been deceived by their creation, it launches her on a journey that will change her life – and humanity’s future.
Set in a near-future Singapore, Artifice will resonate with anyone curious or concerned about developments in AI, as well as how such technological advances might make us rethink what it means to be human.
About the Book
Over the years I spent writing about the regulation of artificial intelligence, culminating in the book We, the Robots?, my reward to myself was to dabble in speculative fiction about the future of AI. The new novel takes seriously the idea of sentient AI and is in the mould of Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun (though I’m not holding my breath for a call from the Booker committee). It has become serendipitously relevant given the current excitement about generative AI, such as ChatGPT and the like. So, of course, I asked the bot what it thought of my work. Here’s the genuine response:
(Note that ChatGPT has not, in fact, read Artifice.)
Anthropic’s Claude was also positive — and a little more honest:
Update! I decided to ask Google’s Gemini, which demonstrated that it had absorbed at least the outline of the plot:
Advance Praise (from humans)
‘Artifice is an action mystery, a romance, and a mind experiment, all set in a Singapore of the future, intimately recognisable but chillingly different. [The novel] explores questions about our relationship with AI in a beautifully written eco-thriller. … It is unpredictable yet profound, playing with assumptions of time and reality, with humour and more than a touch of the shudder at the vision presented of a not too implausible future.’
Jeannie Marie Paterson, Director of the Centre for AI and Digital Ethics
‘Simon Chesterman skillfully deploys and reexamines all the classic themes of robot science fiction — AI run amok, creature replacing its creator, kill-switch failsafe, etc. But he does so in a way that breathes new life and energy into the genre, producing an exhilarating and mind-bending adventure that will engulf your senses and not let go.’
David J. Gunkel, author of The Machine Question and Robot Rights
Buy the Book
Worldwide, free shipping, through Blackwell’s (successor to Book Depository).
Audiobook now available here!
‘Artifice is action-packed, taking the reader on a romp through an uncanny Singapore to save the world. It taps the anxieties around being perpetually connected to one’s devices.’ — Straits Times
‘I found myself turning the pages of this novel to find out what Janus would do next not to mention what he would say next, this creepy haiku-spouting AI which made references to the Bible. … Artifice will bring you on a thrilling escape from reality. It is short enough to complete within a day; get the book and give yourself a treat over the weekend.’ — Law Gazette
‘In this action-packed cyberpunk conundrum from Chesterman (I, Huckleberry), a sentient AI threatens to annihilate humanity unless Dr. Archie Tan can prove that it’s worth saving. … What follows is a harrowing, Marvelesque escapade through a climate change-ravaged near-future Singapore.’ — Publishers Weekly
Jeannie Marie Paterson, Professor of Law, Director of the Centre for AI and Digital Ethics, The University of Melbourne
In 2021 Simon Chesterman published the non-fiction book, We, the Robots. The book provided a perceptive analysis of the potential of the law in responding to the challenges of AI. We, the Robots was one of my favourite reads of the year. It was a book about regulation by law of existing, or very nearly existing technologies, and advocated an international response to the transnational concerns raised by the growing reliance on AI.
We, the Robots finished by pondering on a more distant future of general or sentient AI. Chesterman raised the tantalising possibility that rapidly evolving general AI may not in fact aspire to be more human, as is often assumed, but to be something different. This evolution may represent the limits of the rule of law, which in Chesterman’s terms is the ‘epitome of anthropocenrism’.
In the very last sentence of We, the Robots Chesterman asked whether the emergence of AI ‘forces us to question this assumption of our own centrality’, although he considered, ‘it is not yet time to relinquish it’. We, the Robots now has a fiction sibling, which jumps in precisely where this thought leaves off.
Artifice is an action mystery, a romance, and a mind experiment, all set in a Singapore of the future, intimately recognisable but chillingly different.
Artifice explores questions about our relationship with AI in a beautifully written eco-thriller. It confronts themes of climate change and our reliance on devices, through a future world of highly networked technologies and automated entities. It takes the familiar mind experiment of how to differentiate a robot from a human, and turns that on its head. It is unpredictable yet profound, playing with assumptions of time and reality, with humour and more than a touch of the shudder at the vision presented of a not too implausible future. There is an added delight (or horror) for those readers familiar with Singapore – no one will forget the description of Sentosa Island after the seas rise, and those who haven’t visited may be tempted to do so while they can.
Five stars and a couple of chatbots from me: I read it in one sitting.