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Machines Like Me

Ian McEwan

Top 10 Best Quotes

“Factory settings—a contemporary synonym for fate.”

“The present is the frailest of improbable constructs. It could have been different. Any part of it, or all of it, could be otherwise.”

“Self-aware existence. I’m lucky to have it, but there are times when I think that I ought to know better what to do with it. What it’s for. Sometimes it seems entirely pointless.”

“Love wasn’t possible without a self, and nor was thinking.”

“It’s about machines like me and people like you and our future together…the sadness that’s to come. It will happen. With improvements over time…we’ll surpass you…and outlast you…even as we love you.”

“I couldn't motivate myself. I was subject to occasional depression, relatively mild, certainly not suicidal, and not long episodes so much as passing moments like this, when meaning and purpose and all prospect of pleasure drained away and left me briefly catatonic. For minutes on end I couldn't remember what kept me going. As I stared at the litter of cups and pot and jug in front of me, I thought it was unlikely I would ever get out of my wretched little flat. The two boxes I called rooms, the stained ceilings walls and floors would contain me to the end. There was a lot like me in the neighbourhood, but thirty or forty years older. I had seen them in Simon's shop, reaching for the quality journals from the top shelf. I noted the men especially and their shabby clothes. They had swept past some crucial junction in their lives many years back - a poor career choice, a bad marriage, the unwritten book, the illness that never went away. Now there options were closed, they managed to keep themselves going with some shred of intellectual longing or curiosity. But their boat was sunk.”

“Have you any idea what it takes to catch a ball, or raise a cup to your lips, or make immediate sense of a word, a phrase or an ambiguous sentence? We didn't, not at first. Solving maths problems is the tiniest fraction of what human intelligence does. We learned from a new angle just how wondrous a thing the brain is. A one-litre, liquid-cooled, three-dimensional computer. Unbelievable processing power, unbelievably compressed, unbelievable energy efficiency, no overheating. The whole thing running on twenty-five watts -- one dim light bulb.”

“What people queued the entire weekend for became, six months later, as interesting as the socks on their feet. What happened to the cognition-enhancing helmets, the speaking fridges with a sense of smell? Gone the way of the mouse pad, the Filofax, the electric carving knife, the fondue set. The future kept arriving. Our bright new toys began to rust before we could get them home, and life went on much as before.”

“My prejudice was that any machine that could not tell you by its very functioning how it should be used was not worth its keep.”

“A man newly in love knows what life is.”

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Book Keywords:

meaning-of-life, choices, depression, past, ian-mcewan, machines-like-me, life, existence, present, self-awareness

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