The YA machine: Books for robots and humans to learn from

In a recent article in The Guardian it was said that “scientists have been running tests where artificial intelligences cultivate appropriate social behaviour by responding to simple narratives.”

This is an intriguing idea.

the matrix

Artificial intelligence (or ‘AI’) has long been the subject of the human imagination. We love to make it a villain in film and fiction. But it’s interesting to think about what AI could learn from us, and about us, from our own literature. Which books could we recommend?


Young Adult books have had a run of AI characters over the years and surely having a like-for-like character would be totally rad for a robot to read about. Here’s a few we would recommend:

12476820For the characters in Dan Wells’ ‘Partials Sequence’ (and without giving away any spoilers!) it is very much about learning how to live in a new world destroyed and then re-created by man-made AI. What if everything they have felt our have learned is a total lie? Can the AI beings survive if they break away from a collective? A story of secrets and outsiders and acceptance.


11235712‘Cinder’ by Merissa Meyer has a more obvious robotic protagonist. Linh Cinder is a cyborg mechanic and the book feels like it takes on the issue of cyborg and human right. Cyborgs are seen as ‘property’ regardless of any show of emotion or humanity and despite any humanoid origins. It is another story that lets YA audiences ask “what does it mean to be ‘human’?”


Sometimes the AI in books isn’t shown to be in a position of favour. It is often the aggressor or villain of the story. Should we censor those books from the list for fear of turning on us? (Did ‘The Matrix’ teach you nothing?!)

the matrix

In ‘The Scorpion Rules’ by Erin Bow, Talis is an AI entity on a serious power trip. But he’s also a darkly compelling character and it makes it hard to hate him. Similarly, there’s a ‘malfunctioning’ AI in Kaufman and Kristoff’s ‘Illuminae’.

Not everything is puppies and cotton candy. Life, artificial or otherwise, needs balance, true?

giphy (9)
(an actual representation of a human overcome with comment-rage after reading 500+ pages only to find out ‘it was all a dream’ at the end)

One thing’s for sure, if any scientist wanted a TBR list for their latest AI creation, we’re ready. So ready.

What book would you recommend to a robot? Tweet us @maximumpopbooks

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Written by Sarah Clare

Sarah is the Lead Writer and Design Queen here at Maximum Pop! Sarah holds an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University, and a BA in Creative Writing with English Literature from Marjon (BIG UP THE MARJON MASSIVE!). Sarah joined MP! after seeing an advertisement for writers on Instagram – because where else would a design master find their dream job?

Sarah is currently working on an expose on Draco Malfoy in her spare time. But not if his father hears about it.

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