What if a machine could tell you how to be happy? What if your results could be manipulated? What if you had to do something illegal, immoral, or unethical to achieve happiness? These are a few of the questions posed in the speculative fiction novel Tell the Machine Goodnight, by Katie Williams. Set in 2035, our protagonist Pearl works for a Facebook or Google-like tech organization, Apricity, whose name means "the warmth of the sun during winter". Businesses include Apricty readings as a benefit. along with insurance and retirement packages. Apricity is brought in to help victims of workplace violence heal (for a price, of course). On a normal work day, Pearl takes DNA swabs of paying customers and inputs them into the Apricity machine. Within seconds, the machine spits out the best way for that person to be happy. Eat more tangerines. No longer speak to your brother. Amputate the uppermost section of your right index finger. The machine is (almost) always right. At home, Pearl looks to the machine for answers to why her teenage son is melancholy and anorexic and why her husband left her for a younger woman. The cast of characters eventually expands to include rival coworkers, a young actress known for her dramatic death scenes, and assorted friends and lovers, but the machine is always the star. The most surprising thing about Tell the Machine Goodnight was how much the Spring Hill book group loved it. We had a lively discussion, and we were evenly split on using an Apricity machine if it was invented. What would you do?
Sep 16, 2019