Artificial Life After Frankenstein

Artificial Life After Frankenstein

Eileen Hunt Botting

306 pages | 6 x 9 | 0
Cloth Dec 2020 | ISBN 9780812252743 | $34.95a | Outside the Americas £27.99
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
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"Artificial Life After Frankenstein has a clear and powerful message: we are all artificial creatures, and we all deserve respect, even love. Using Mary Shelley's life and her two novels, Frankenstein and The Last Man, as touchstones throughout, Botting explores what she identifies as the three big myths about artificial intelligence: that it will end the world, destroy nature, and extinguish love."—Lori Marso, author of Politics with Beauvoir: Freedom in the Encounter

"This is an original and compelling book. Eileen Hunt Botting offers a wonderfully rich account of Mary Shelley's philosophical vision and its implications for a range of pressing contemporary debates about the meaning of life. Theoretically acute, historically revealing, and beautifully written, Artificial Life After Frankenstein will be of interest to scholars across a range of disciplines."—Duncan Bell, author of Reordering the World: Essays on Liberalism and Empire

Artificial Life After Frankenstein brings the insights born of Mary Shelley's legacy to bear upon the ethics and politics of making artificial life and intelligence in the twenty-first century.

What are the obligations of humanity to the artificial creatures we make? And what are the corresponding rights of those creatures, whether they are learning machines or genetically modified organisms? In seeking ways to respond to these questions, so vital for our age of genetic engineering and artificial intelligence, we would do well to turn to the capacious mind and imaginative genius of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851). Shelley's novels Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) and The Last Man (1826) precipitated a modern political strain of science fiction concerned with the ethical dilemmas that arise when we make artificial life—and make life artificial—through science, technology, and other forms of cultural change.

In Artificial Life After Frankenstein, Eileen Hunt Botting puts Shelley and several classics of modern political science fiction into dialogue with contemporary political science and philosophy, in order to challenge some of the apocalyptic fears at the fore of twenty-first-century political thought on AI and genetic engineering. Focusing on the prevailing myths that artificial forms of life will end the world, destroy nature, and extinguish love, Botting shows how Shelley modeled ways to break down and transform the meanings of apocalypse, nature, and love in the face of widespread and deep-seated fear about the power of technology and artifice to undermine the possibility of humanity, community, and life itself.

Through their explorations of these themes, Mary Shelley and authors of modern political science fiction from H. G. Wells to Nnedi Okorafor have paved the way for a techno-political philosophy of living with the artifice of humanity in all of its complexity. In Artificial Life After Frankenstein, Botting brings the insights born of Shelley's legacy to bear upon the ethics and politics of making artificial life and intelligence in the twenty-first century.

Eileen Hunt Botting is Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame and author of Wollstonecraft, Mill, and Women's Human Rights and Family Feuds: Wollstonecraft, Burke, and Rousseau on the Transformation of the Family. Her book Mary Shelley and the Rights of the Child is also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

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