Thursday, May 3, 2018

"The Vestigial Heart"

Carme Torras, a leading researcher in robotics and artificial intelligence, is Research Professor at the Institut de Robòtica i Informàtica Industrial (CSIC-UPC) in Barcelona and editor of IEEE Transactions on Robotics.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Vestigial Heart, and reported the following:
Page 69 touches on a key theme in the novel, namely the struggle of Silvana to recover emotions from the past that increasing interaction with robots has led to extinction at the beginning of the 22nd century.

When, in her search, she attends a Korean ceremony to worship the ancestors:
The strange mood, the scent of incense and the silence set off her imagination, and she shudders upon noticing an unknown spark inside her. [..] She knows that this indiscriminate respect for one’s ancestors is not what she’s looking for … but it’s similar. And, who knows, maybe with the right stimuli she will be able to uncover the underlying emotion, just as laughter brings happiness and not the other way around.

[..] the acolytes perform two complete bows and, amid a captivating quiet and stillness, they prostrate themselves at the old bearded man’s feet. Silvana feels a shiver down her spine, she’s moved by a bodily configuration she has never seen nor imagined, that is capable of making her hair stand on end without any form of physical contact.
In page 69 of the original Catalan version of the novel, Silvana appears also chasing the feeling of admiration for the achievements of great people, but in the Spanish translation the protagonist is Celia, a thirteen-year-old girl from the 21st century who wakes from a cryogenically induced sleep into this strange world. She talks to her mother through a ring she gave her as an amulet:
“Oh, Mom, this all seems like a play where I’m the only living person. The others are like cardboard, or stone … or mechanical, like ROBbie. What am I doing here, if no one cares about me and I’m having a bad time? There are moments when I feel so horribly alone that I’m dying of fear. Then I give up hope and I feel like I could kill myself. If I don’t, it’s for you and Dad. Maybe I haven’t understood where I am, I tell myself, and I try to calm myself down. Who knows, it might just be a bad dream and you could appear at any moment. Sometimes dreams are very real. Why have you chosen this for me, without asking?”
Obviously, Silvana becomes very interested in Celia, and she rivals Leo, a designer of companion robots who is very attracted by the unusual creativity shown by the girl.
Learn more about The Vestigial Heart at the MIT Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue