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Novelist Appupen tackles AI anxieties in new book ‘Dream Machine’

Despite Appupen’s inherent scepticism about new technological advancements, he explored the subject further, which is when he met Laurent Daudet, a physics professor at one of Paris’ leading universities. “We started talking about it and the first thing he mentioned was the resources AI takes and if we go on like this, we might just use up all the resources that we have.

That was a refreshing take from a tech person. Because usually, tech people say more tech is always the answer to bad tech,” he laughs, adding, “He seemed like someone who thinks a bit like me. So I asked him whether he wanted to make something with me like an explainer to tell people or just demystify AI for people. That was the original idea.”

Dream Machine revolves around Hugo, the founder of an AI startup who is approached by a big corporation to buy his technology for a game. He struggles to make a decision as he hears more about the company and its intentions. The book tries to go beyond the superficial allure of advanced gadgets and self-driving cars as it seeks to peel back the layers of AI, revealing the more critical aspects that are often overshadowed by its more appealing, consumer-friendly features. “It’s the flush end of AI, which is the fun part that you’re deliberately pushing to people so that they are distracted from the real reasons why AI should be handled carefully,” he says.

It so happened that he found a publisher who shared his vision. “The fact that the publishers didn’t make it look like a textbook appealed to me. In fact, the publisher wanted a thriller. I thought just by opening this can of worms, it could look like a thriller because this has very far-reaching implications that we can highlight,” adds Appupen.

The book, which was launched in India last month ends with a disclaimer stating, “This book is written and drawn entirely by humans, except for Chapter 10, the very last one, where based on a synopsis of the book, we prompted ChatGPT with five different features of our story – copied here verbatim” – leaving it open to multiple scenarios as the real world sees the rise of AI.

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