Book Review: Hello Again

New and Notable

March 2024

Reading time min

Artificial book cover on a watercolor background

Watercolor: Jen Dostalek

Since the public release of ChatGPT a year and a half ago, we’ve interacted more and more with chatbots and other programs that use natural language processing and generative artificial intelligence to simulate conversation. And there’s a lot we want to know. How do chatbots generate their answers to our questions? How and where do they get their information? Could a chatbot ever form a genuine connection with a human? And at what point might the chatbot itself seem human?

These are the questions cartoonist and writer Amy Kurzweil brings to Artificial: A Love Story (Catapult), a graphic memoir that takes a heartfelt look at the technological dimensions of human connection. Kurzweil’s perspective and storytelling shows her close relationship with her father, computer scientist and inventor Ray Kurzweil, who has long predicted the eventual merging of human and machine. 

Illustration of woman and couple at therapyIllustration: Amy Kurzweil/Catapult Books

At its core, Artificial is an intimate story about how we preserve the bonds of family and the meaning of heritage across physical and temporal distances. Kurzweil, ’09, narrates the life of her paternal grandfather, Fritz “Fred” Kurzweil, an accomplished Austrian conductor and pianist whose talent played a pivotal role in his narrow escape from the Nazis in 1938. After leaving Vienna, Fred built a life in New York. He died when Ray was only 22. 

Now Fred is coming back to life, in a way, through AI. His memories, pieced together through personal letters, documentation, and other ephemera, have become data, fed to an algorithm for Ray Kurzweil’s latest invention: Fredbot, a chatbot that will write in the voice of his father. Amy Kurzweil, who was tasked with gathering and digitizing thousands of old, often handwritten documents, brings a keen archival eye to her illustrations, contrasting the soaring idealism of her father’s project and the mundanity of sifting through file after file, box after box, in a family storage unit. Throughout the narrative, she contemplates the meaning not only of these materials but also of the digital relics of our everyday lives. 

Human presence is powerful, yet it is also fleeting. It can arise through the technologies we use to connect with others but is subject to the fallibilities of memory and perspective. With warmth and nuance, Kurzweil expresses a growing understanding of her family’s legacy and how it has influenced her life as an artist and her relationships. The result is a rich, searching account of how we become real and present to one another in a fragmented, often virtual world.

Rachel Kolb’12, MA ’13, is a junior fellow in the Society of Fellows at Harvard and a former editorial intern at Stanford. Email her at

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