September 1, 2020

Five years ago, bio­engi­neer Peter Bern­hardt and his Yid­dish-speak­ing research part­ner Dr. Ruth Chaikin spear­head­ed an inno­va­tion in nan­otech­nol­o­gy that changed the course of evo­lu­tion. Until every­thing was tak­en from Peter – his research, the peo­ple he loved, and final­ly his life. Uploaded as arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, Peter is alive again thanks to Ruth and fel­low AI Carter Potsdam.

But a third sen­tient com­put­er pro­gram, Major Tom, is tear­ing the Unit­ed States apart, destroy­ing its lead­ers and its cities. Major Tom’s mis­sion: rebuild a new Amer­i­ca from the ruins and reign as an uncon­test­ed monarch. Ruth knows that only Peter can tikkun olam–repair the world – by bring­ing all sides together.

Caught in a vir­tu­al world between an alleged ally and an ene­my, pieces of Peter’s for­mer self remain: the need for vengeance, empa­thy for the sub­ju­gat­ed peo­ple of a derelict world, and doubt in every­thing he’s been led to believe. To res­cue what’s left, he’ll need to once again advance the notion of evo­lu­tion and to expand the mean­ing of being human – by sav­ing humanity.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of PJ Manney

  1. Is this a future you can imag­ine hap­pen­ing? Why or why not?

  2. Which char­ac­ters did you empathize with? Did your empa­thy sur­prise you?

  3. Did the sto­ry dis­turb you? How?

  4. How do the tech­no­log­i­cal advances depict­ed in the tril­o­gy reflect our cur­rent tech­nolo­gies? If these tech­nolo­gies begin as med­ical ther­a­pies, but are weaponized, what can we do to pre­vent that?

  5. How does Ruth Chaikin con­vey what we might con­sid­er Jew­ish values?

  6. Are the choic­es the Peters and Toms make con­sis­tent with ethics as you know them? Did any choic­es sur­prise you? Would you have made dif­fer­ent decisions?

  7. How do Peter Bern­hardt and Tom Paine resem­ble golems or dyb­buks? How do they differ?

  8. How do becom­ing cyborgs (part human, part machine) change our rela­tion­ship with each oth­er? Our com­mu­ni­ties? And the world? Are we cyborgs now or not?

  9. Can you imag­ine your­self as an arti­fi­cial human intel­li­gence? How might you be sim­i­lar and dif­fer­ent from the per­son you believe you are now?

  10. The pro­tag­o­nists want to repair the world. How do you see their goals as Tikkun Olam and what would you do to repair the world in their place?