Tim Scott, prodigy of Silicon Valley, has lost his wife and is since mourning. But he wouldn’t be one of the richest and most admired IT specialists if he wasn’t the one with visions. And now his dream has come true: a cobot, perfect replica of his wife Abbie, lookalike and fed with memories of former wife’s life. As soon as the public becomes aware of this technological milestone, strong opinions collide: how do you treat a robot who looks, speaks and behaves like a human? Who do Abbie’s memories belong to? And why would someone prefer to live with a machine if he could have any woman in the country? For Tim the last question is easy to answer, but this is something he would never tell the public or his new partner. He mission is far bigger than just building a perfect copy of Abbie.
“The Perfect Wife” is a stunning combination of science-fiction novel and thriller. I especially appreciated the perspective taken: together with recently awaken cobot Abbie, we learn our way around the world of Tim Scott and only bit by bit gain knowledge about the seemingly perfect marriage he and Abbie had. There is a second voice adding information somehow from the inside Tim’s company, yet it takes until the very end to understand where this voice comes from. Many unexpected twists and turns keep suspense high and the more the action advances, the more you ask yourself what your position is when it comes to artificial intelligence.
Creating the perfect partner has been mankind’s dream forever, already in the old Greek tales you find the example of Pygmalion and throughout our history, this has always been a vision. Now, our technical knowledge and the means seem at a point where this could be possible. I found JP Delaney’s idea quite realistic and not too far-fetched after all. Machine learning has been around for a couple of years now and more and more humanoid robots inhabit our world. We even talk to them as if they were humans and Siri, Alexa and the like have become a normal part of our life.
There is another aspect I found particularly interesting: Tim’s and Abbie’s son was diagnosed with autism and the cobot seems to be much more capable of understanding his ways of communication than human beings. They share some similarities in how their programming/brains work which leads me to wonder if with the help of machines, we could facilitate life for many people suffering from this or similar disorders.
All in all, a suspenseful thriller which raises the most relevant questions of our time and surely mirrors our human hubris. Something we definitely must reconsider.