Klara and the sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara and the sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. The author won the Nobel prize of literature in 2017 and that is the only one reason I decided to read this book. Disappointing choice.  There are so many positive reviews about the book out there and I guess  my review  will seem unfair but hey, this is my review and this is what I think.

The story is about  Klara, a companion robot that is supposed to help to raise Josie. But Josie’s mother has a different purpose for Klara. The mother plans on replacing her daughter with Klara because Josie is ill and is expected to die soon. Josie doesn’t die and sun-worshiping Klara believes the sun healed Josie’s illness. Josie continues with her life and when she goes to college, Klara is no longer needed and at the end of the book Klara ends up in the junkyard. That’s all. No twisting points, no in-depth development of characters and nothing unexpected. I expected more from this book.

Just one more final comment about the fact that Klara perceives the world through ‘boxes’.  Since this is not clarified in the book, I am just going to give my own interpretation. And what I think is that these ‘boxes’ are really  just an attempt to explain to the reader what is common knowledge in computer vision and basic artificial intelligence, that  computers analyze images  in several layers (boxes) to extract first the most basic features of objects (edges, corners, etc) and from these basic elements whole images are then assembled and ‘understood’. This AI image processing scheme is in turn a simplification of how the mammalian neocortex works in layers of perception as well.  This is a nice touch of course. The author tried to describe how a robot ‘sees’ the world.

Another interpretation of the ‘boxes’, which is similarly based on scientific evidence, comes also from neuroscience. The ‘boxes’ in Klara’s mind are multiple layers of consciousness.  Inside our mind there is a multitude of “selves” each one pushing their way to take control over our behavior. Each of these selves comes up with their own way of solving problems. In the case of Klara, often she can choose which box to use to make decisions about the world. 

I wrote a review of the book  ‘Incognito’ by D. Eagleman, devoted to the  concept of the multiple  mental subprocesses that battle among them for control of our consciousness.

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