60 pages 2 hours read

Neal Shusterman


Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2018

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Human Fallibility Versus the Perfection of Artificial Intelligence

In the world of science fiction, the presence of artificial intelligence traditionally hints at a society that has advanced far enough to recognize its own imperfection. Computers are far from perfect and are often described as only being as “smart” as the person who designed them. However, Shusterman describes the Thunderhead as something that evolved beyond basic computational skills. The Thunderhead possesses the ability to think for itself, to empathize and emote, and to protect mankind from itself. Shusterman uses the Thunderhead to showcase the power of artificial intelligence and how it might be used to save humankind from its own greed, destruction, and limited thinking.

The Thunderhead recognizes that it is “a cumulous of human knowledge” (51). The Thunderhead is not humble (nor is it proud), but it acknowledges that its success as the maintainer of life on Earth is only possible because “humanity had the knowledge to do it” (51). However, humans were so divided by emotions, politics, hatred, and inefficient processes that society was seriously hindered and unable to make these choices for itself. The Thunderhead, for example, was able to save the planet from climate change destruction by “Restoring the failing ozone layer; purging the abundance of greenhouse gases; depolluting the seas; coaxing back the rainforests; and rescuing a multitude of species from the edge of extinction” (51).