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The Explainer (Short Review)

The Explainer is a quick peek at a future where artificial intelligence runs our daily lives. Liu pairs hard science with the simplicity of a childhood bedtime story to show the complexities of artificial minds and their abilities to skate around the truth.


Ken Liu
Lightspeed Magazine, September 2018 Issue


The Explainer shows the technical and the personable side of robotics. Liu is a master of breaking down the technical aspects of a science, making them relatable and informative. On top of the exploration of the inner-workings of an AI, you have the personable side in the storytelling capabilities. This leads an air of humanity to the AI and, in so doing, gives it wiggle room when adapting to its surroundings. I love the concept of an AI nanny turning a common bedtime story into a never ending narrative filled with excuses that get more and more detailed. While the concept is left in a comical light, there’s a bit of underlying fear as you imagine what a brilliant technology could do with the capability to lie.


We have three primary characters. The senior engineer provides the technical, hard science aspect of the story. We see how much goes into the creation of an AI and how its logic patterns are created. The young girl provides the story aspect, leading the engineer toward his eventual conclusion. She’s bright and detail-oriented, adding in the lighthearted aspect of the story. Finally, the AI, named Allie, is the underlying main character, who shows us that the artificial beings are more than they seem.


Not much is said about the setting. It’s a world with advanced AI capabilities, where the technology is integrated into most, if not all, homes. They appear to be widely accepted.


Science Fiction, Robots, Artificial Intelligence, Future

Interested in more stories like The Explainer? Read our short reviews here.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


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