review of the short story collection Entanglements
This has several great stories:
- Nancy Kress's "Invisible People" involves a fascinating, and not very far-fetched, ethical dilemma: parents learn that their adopted child was the result of illegal genetic tampering which made the child heartwarmingly altruistic but also prone to taking major risks. There's an experimental procedure for reversing this; should the parents have the child undergo it?
- In Rich Larson's "Echo the Echo", a character tries to convince his grandmother to wear a device that will create an "echo" of her—an AI simulation of her that the family can talk to occasionally after she dies. In a heartbreaking comment about the effects old age has had on her, she declares, "I'm already an echo". This story also features a dating app where an AI simulation of you conducts conversations with simulations of other users, then arranges dates for you based on the most promising conversations, along with briefing you on what you might want to talk to them about. I 1000% want this app.
- Nick Wolven's "Sparklybits" is about a young child who develops a private language with his best friend, a virus-like AI that his committee of mothers don't approve of. Also, it contains this excellent phrase: "hair malfunction at the hippie factory".
- Mary Robinette Kowal's "A Little Wisdom" depicts a cozy moment amidst trouble: strangers taking shelter from a tornado at an art museum become entranced by miniature artwork.
- James Patrick Kelly's "Your Boyfriend Experience" takes the idea of sexbots in an unexpected direction: the bot wants to form a throuple with an existing couple, and it seems to be able to smooth over the problems in the couple's relationship. But the bot's life depends on making the throuple a reality, adding a tricky element of emotional blackmail.
- In Sam J. Miller's "The Nation of the Sick", automated idea generation enables rapid progress across a wide range of fields, which a visionary entrepreneur ensures is all used for the benefit of humanity—but the progress isn't enough to salve her personal pain.
- Suzanne Palmer's "Don't Mind Me" is a somewhat simplistic vision of a far-right dystopia, but with a fascinating (horrifying) idea at its core: a "minder" device that puritanical parents force children to wear, which wipes the child's short-term memory whenever they're exposed to information the parents find objectionable.