University of Western Australia
Richard Powers’ cyberfiction, Galatea 2.2, is unique in its detailed and realistic way of imagining artificial intelligence (AI) technology, which is a subject that has long preoccupied the public imagination. However, the novel’s central preoccupation is with the potential of AI machines to develop self-consciousness. Contrary to common representations of AI in science fiction, here, the AI has to take a master’s degree exam in English Literature. During its training, the AI gradually acquires self-consciousness, which questions this property’s exclusiveness to humankind. In this paper, I would like to argue that the AI’s selfhood, as seen from the perspective of the narrator, is constructed as a result of its exposure to narratives. According to certain contemporary debates in the cognitive sciences, what we consider as self could be converted into a narrative. Synthesising theories of posthumanism and narrativity, this paper will examine the process of self-acquisition in Galatea 2.2’s AI, as well as the way the novel’s self-reflexive focus on narrativity modifies the interrelations between the narrator, his narrative, and the readers of the novel.
Keywords: Richard Powers, Galatea 2.2, science fiction, posthumanism, narrative theory