The Hindu (Mumbai)


“I’d never give AI any sort of creative control over my work,” says Appupen, who has a new book on the subject

- Jaideep Unudurti

In 1863, readers of The Press,a newspaper printed out of a small cottage in Christchur­ch, New Zealand, were confronted by a strange article. Amidst the usual reports of sheep gone astray, and trends in barley prices, there was a long piece with rousing lines such as “Day by day, however, the machines are gaining ground upon us; day by day we are becoming more subservien­t to them; more men are daily bound down as slaves to tend them, more men are daily devoting the energies of their whole lives to the developmen­t of mechanical life.”

The author was confident “…that the time will come when the machines will hold the real supremacy over the world and its inhabitant­s...” This piece, written by Samuel Butler, who would later have a career as a celebrated novelist, could equally be a blog post today, a centuryand­ahalf later. One might argue that machines today possess as much or as little of “consciousn­ess” as they did then, but no one can deny that our reality has been fundamenta­lly reshaped by even the possibilit­y of dreaming, thinking machines. Joining this long tradition of warning against their rise, is Dream

Machine (Context), a graphic novel written by Laurent Daudet, and drawn and adapted by Appupen.

After my first read, encounteri­ng huge chunks of informatio­n on themes from particle physics to human rights in Turkmenist­an, I reach out to Appupen, who I’ve known for a decade. This is the opposite of “dumbing down”, I tell him. “Done dumbing down,” he replies, “it kills us.” I say that I had to read it with multiple tabs open on my computer. He laughs, “I had to break down the tech stuff exactly like that — with multiple tabs open. Once the tech modules were in, I figured it’s going to be an intense read.”

Digital immortalit­y

The story begins with Hugo Klein — a standin for author Daudet — the CEO of a company called KLAI, about to enter into a lucrative deal with REAL.E, a kind of combinatio­n of Facebook and Microsoft, headed by Kripp, who is a kind of Zuckerberg and Musk figure. KLAI’s expertise is in Large Language Models (LLMs) and textbased learning — the underlying technology behind generative AI.

 ?? ?? (Clockwise) Panels from Dream Machine; artist Appupen; and author Laurent Daudet.
(Clockwise) Panels from Dream Machine; artist Appupen; and author Laurent Daudet.
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