All posts tagged AI

For the dystopian heroine, as for the young adult reader who shares her despairs and triumphs, the quest for agency is the principle focus of the ascent to adulthood. In the realm of utopian literature, one can scarcely conceive of a society absent agency as anything other than a disaster.

In my conference presentation, A Sympathetic Tantalus: The Scorpion Rules and the Broken Promise of Agency, I will be discussing the role agency plays in young adult dystopian narratives, and more importantly the role young adult dystopian literature plays in developing a sense of agency in our youth. The talk will focus on Erin Bow’s The Scorpion Rules, following Princess Greta’s development from hostage schoolgirl to tortured captive, and finally to awe-inspiring trans-human intellect. Will we cover the intricacies of goat husbandry, or the intrigue of princess/goddess/farm boy love triangles?

“Goats — the shapers of history.”

Probably not. We do have our time constraints. Nevertheless, you will not want to miss the classic dystopian staples: ecological disaster, global war, genocide, filicide, panopticism, un-nerving robot intelligences that make us question the very nature of humanity, and more. We will also be forced to consider Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, painfully immediate though it is. Remembering the rumbling of dissatisfaction with the fate of Marcus’ revolution, the continuing existence of the DHS, and the absence of any true punishment for the dreaded Severe Haircut Lady, we will consider the efficacy of the ambiguous ending in literature as a spur to real-world action.

I argue that this pattern is greater than fear alone and more affective than mere hope. It is a thing that unsettles and forces a response. Having experienced the arduous road to revolution and the crushing defeat that follows, how do we choose to fill the void in our hearts and the vacant space the author leaves for our own story?

Works Cited:
Bow, Erin. The Scorpion Rules. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2016, New York.
Doctorow, Cory. Little Brother. Tom Doherty Associates, LLC., 2008, New York.
Elgaard. Goat in Argan Nut tree, Morocco. Wikimedia Commons, 22 Feb. 2015,

When rogue artificial intelligence Michael Talis saved the world from war he immediately assumed the burden of convincing the leaders of humanity not only to subjugate their nations to his rule, but also to offer their own beloved children as the collateral that would ensure peace (1-3). For many, this would be a difficult thing to accept, and surely the citizens of the world that empowered Talis could defeat him. Why has there been such resigned acceptance?

City goes boom. It's really not meant to be subtle.

Behold the power of propaganda. The word of Talis is known and studied by the leaders of the world, having been collected in a holy text known as the Utterances (20). His strategy is threefold. First, Talis portrays himself as the savior of the world, and mankind as short-sighted and incompetent: “. . . and of course people started shooting, because that’s what passes for problem-solving among humans. See, guys, this is why you can’t have nice things” (2). He would have us believe we are not fit to care for the earth alone. Then again, Talis is not above that timeless despotic classic, fear. When once a state dared attack a compound where his hostages were housed, Talis removed all trace of their capitol from the earth. “City goes boom . . . It’s really not meant to be subtle” (169). Indeed, Talis himself assures the people of earth that “resistance is futile” (32). This last quote is, of course, not original but is one of his many beloved movie quotes. Indeed, the third arm of rhetoric Talis employs is designed to subtly suggest a sense of humanity. His demeanor and tone are always lighthearted, jocular, reminiscent of a young boy, even when the subject matter is quite heavy. From Greta’s later experiences we know that the AI process information at startling speeds (351-352). We must therefore assume that any humor on the part of Talis is purely affected, that he disarming in more ways than one. Michael Talis, the benevolent, the omnipotent, the charmingly playful. I wouldn’t half mind giving him a chance.

Works Cited:
Bow, Erin. The Scorpion Rules. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2016, New York.
Mihan(AKA)Zed. Metro zagotovka. Wikimedia Commons, 19 Oct. 2008,