Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Score: 4/5

A nobel-prize winning author writes a novel about AI? Well not exactly about AI. It’s just that the main character is an AI that takes care of the kids. One interesting part about this novel is a discussion around AI’s religion. It’s not a common topic among Sci-fi writers, so to see a non-sci-fi writer discussing this topic is one reason that this book is worth a read.

Because the main character Klara, the AI, takes care of kids, both Klara and the kids who appear in the story grow and learn. There are a lot of facts that we take for granted, but when they are spelled out explicitly in order to teach the AI or the kid, they become noteworthy. That’s the second reason the book is worth a read. To see everything laid out, analyzed, every complicated human emotion, every detail about a relationship between people. Yes Klara is an AI, but that’s just the setting. The author wants Klara to be an AI so that he can talk about those human things.

Highlights (Don’t read if you care about spoilers):

  • ‘What you must understand is that we’re a very special store. There are many children out there who would love to be able to choose you, choose Rosa, any one of you here. But it’s not possible for them. You’re beyond their reach. That’s why they come to the window, to dream about having you. But then they get sad.’
  • This was one of the great things about Rosa. She could fail to notice so much, and even when I pointed something out to her, she’d still not see what was special or interesting about it. Yet every now and then she’d make an observation like this one.
    • This comment is made by an AI about another AI, but I guess it is true about many kids who are still trying to understand the world.
  • ‘The trouble is,’ he went on, ‘she doesn’t stay the same. I thought if I came today – stupid, really – I thought she might not…change. Might stay the same Josie.’
    • Typical wishes of a parent, and one reason pets are an attractive option for a family member.
  • I’d begun to understand also that this wasn’t a trait peculiar just to Josie; that people often felt the need to prepare a side of themselves to display to passers-by – as they might in a store window – and that such a display needn’t be taken so seriously once the moment had passed.
  • Helen’s request concerning Rick appears very sincere. I’m surprised someone would desire so much a path that would leave her in loneliness.’ ‘And that’s what surprises you?’ ‘Yes. Until recently, I didn’t think that humans could choose loneliness. That there were sometimes forces more powerful than the wish to avoid loneliness.’
  • She’d hoped, I knew, that Rick would come to wave her off. But as it turned out, he was many miles away that day, meeting his new friends to talk about his hard-to-detect data-gathering devices.
    • Their past friendship is also many miles away.