Swift as a Dream and Fleeting as a Sigh • 2012 • Science Fiction short story by John Barnes


Meta: isfdb. This SF short story appeared 2012 in Edge of Infinity.

Synopsis:  Two humans, Laura and Tyward, get couple therapy by an A.I. psychologist. Ty works as a mining robot analyst who tries to optimize evasion strategies of those robot ants. Some of them built A.I. models to please humans, one of them manipulating Ty’s emotions.  Laura doesn’t like Ty’s sensitivity, his lack of manliness.

Review:  This is certainly not the first SF work employing an A.I. as a psychologist, e.g. Gateway by Pohl comes to mind. But it tells the story from the point of view of this A.I. which was refreshing new for me, as it explains the situation of A.Is when talking to humans: eons of times between human words, i.e. some milliseconds which have to be filled with tons of analysis, watching thousands of movies. In short: Humans are so slow.

In parts, I found the background a bit difficult to digest, like in some Rajaniemi story. But in general, the story flowed nicely, and the motivations of the diverse forms of A.I. (psychologist and mining ants) were played out very good.

I found the story thought-provoking, though it didn’t bring up any new impulses concerning post-singularity besides the point of view narration. The end wasn’t motivated and came out of a sudden.

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