Tuesday 13 February 2024

Dream Machine by Laurent Daudet and Appupen

                                             Dream Machine

Perhaps one of the most disruptive events in the recent times has been the launch of ChatGPT in November 2022. The world has since been embroiled in analyzing the dangers and benefits of Artificial Intelligence (AI) with several doomsday scenarios already floating around.

So, what exactly does the rise of AI mean for us and the world? How can it be harnessed for the good of mankind and the not-so good uses it can be put to? Dream Machine (Westland Books, 2024), a new graphic novel by the graphic artist Appupen (Moonward, Legends of Halahala) and Laurent Daudet (Physics professor and CEO of an AI start-up) attempts to answer some of the questions surrounding the break-through technology.

Hugo runs a Paris based AI startup called KLAI with whom a large technology company called REAL wants to sign an exclusive deal to utilize KLAI’s technology for their upcoming AI products. Hugo and his team are obviously excited as this offer promises to carry them to the big league (and maybe a bigger flat for Hugo and his partner Anna). REAL is pressurizing Hugo not to overthink and get aboard quickly (‘because there is not enough time to think or wait for proof. It is the opportunity that we must seize’).

However, discussions with his fellow scientists, friends (including a graphic artist who could be Appupen himself) and an international watchdog group working for ethical AI raises doubts in Hogo’s mind regarding the actual intentions and aim of REAL. They could be working towards a technology which can imperil democracies and freedom around the world  amongst other things. He is now in a dilemma as to whether he should go ahead with the deal or not? What would be the best way to use AI? What are some of the ethical issues at the heart of the debate?

The novel is text heavy as it includes a brief description on how AI and its components work. This could prove to be a bit dense for some people and I feel they could have edited some of these details out. Appupen’s graphic work, with its intricate linework, is wonderful as usual. A little abstract but completely in sync with the story and helps to helps to clarify the concepts touched upon. At 156 pages, the graphic is not a quick read and you need to spend time with it to get the best out of it. Even though the story is based in Europe, it touches upon a lot of issues we in India have been facing over the last decade and I am sure a lot of you will be able to identify with the concerns raised.

Recommended if you are interested in AI and it's potential or a fan of Appupen's art.

- Amir Bashir

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