Sentience – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (3.75 / 5 stars)

Who is human? Who is the robot? That’s the question posed to a group of twenty-four individuals that agree to take part in a dangerous Turing Test, where four of them are in fact artificial intelligence. Can they figure out which among them isn’t human? Or will they end up killing themselves in the process?

In a much personal approach to the Turing Test, we follow the journey of Leo, Avery, Ripley, Evie, Luca, Kai, Blaire, and many many others as they go on an adventure through Eden, fending for survival and trying to figure out who is not human. But even if one of them is an AI, does that mean they’re not human? This is the central question throughout the story.

While I guessed who at least two of the four AI were before they were revealed, Courtney Hunter still does a great job in connecting the readers with the primary players in this Turing Test. Even as participants turn against each other, I found myself not caring who was the AI: in fact, to an extent, I hoped the AI would prevail. Which, in a way, is the point of this story. The AI are just as human as everyone else, and if we as society ever get to the point of creating artificial intelligence, what rights would they really have?

The second half of the novel was much stronger than the first half, in my opinion. We start to get insights into the organization running these tests, as well as their purpose. In the first half of the novel, we’re thrown head first into the test, and into the lives of all 24 characters. This is done with reason, but it took quite a bit for me to get to know the crucial characters in the story, especially after going through two pages of “my name is ___ and I am a ___”. While this isn’t unrealistic for an actual test, as a reader I ended up putting more than half those characters to the side. Some of these characters turned out to be very important too in the long run, but because of how many existed, it was hard to keep track of the way they played this game.

This take on the Turing Test will delight fans of sci-fi – whether you love Westworld, Star Trek, Battlestar Galatica, or something else entirely! Sentience asks the true question: is being sentient equal to being conscious? And who really is a true representation of humanity?

I guess you’ll have to read it to find out.

What’s it about?

Robots, sex, lies, adventure, and chaos. Who can you trust when you can’t trust yourself? And what truly defines humanity and consciousness?

Running from a violent past, Leo Knox desperately decides to participate in a scientific experiment conducted by the infamous and greedy tech-giant, AlgorithmOS. Soon, Leo learns that she has agreed to take part in a Turing Test, a test that measures the ability of artificial intelligence to blend in among humanity, but what she doesn’t know is that the test set to take place is unlike any other of its kind. 

Leo enters Eden, the contained preserve where the test will occur, with twenty-three others. While everyone appears to be human, four of the individuals are an indistinguishably advanced form of humanoid AI. The task is simple: identify the AI while trying to survive. The twist? The four AI are completely unaware of their nature, causing every participant to question what they know as reality. 

The group embarks on a journey within the preserve, rigged with obstacles devised by the controllers of the experiment to elicit human response and emotion. Quickly, madness ensues and divides form, partnering Leo up with Avery Ford, a Marine who wears his demons on his sleeve. Romance falls together for the two as the world around them falls apart, revealing the lengths people will go to protect those they love, to achieve monetary gain, or simply to survive.

Back at AlgorithmOS, the story unfolds on the screens of Nathan Aimes, a scientist responsible for monitoring the experiment’s surveillance cameras. Nathan studies the humans involved as they wrestle with where they stand on the polarizing issue of AI and its applications. He watches the AI unknowingly fight to prove their humanity just to leave the experiment unscathed. All the while, Nathan is intimately aware of his company’s plans to weaponize or commodify the AI should they pass the test, and he must reconcile this with the chaos that plays out before him.

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