Why I Wrote Living With Frankenstein

Steven Schkolne
3 min readJun 18, 2020

Living with Frankenstein: The History and Destiny of Machine Consciousness
Print and ebook available on Amazon
Read excerpt

Have you ever wondered how machines will take over the world? We all seem to believe this development is inevitable, but details are hard to find.

Clarity arrived when I challenged myself to prove that machines are conscious. I wrote a series of Medium articles on the subject. Surely, there would be some limit I’d find, given that most do not believe that machines have achieved consciousness.

When I couldn’t find such a limit, I started to wonder: if machines haven’t taken over the world despite being conscious, what is the tipping point? Fortunately my exploration left me with some very specific tools to answer the question.

You see, human consciousness is a multi-faceted phenomenon. Many great thinkers have proposed definitions for consciousness, and none of them are right (or wrong). Each merely describes one facet of this beautiful gem that is human consciousness. As I went through these facets, one by one, I started to find parallels in machines.

Before long I had a cornucopia of behaviors described in straight-up computer engineering speak. These facets of machine consciousness together make a uniquely brilliant gem. My new book Living With Frankenstein is the story of this magnificent creation. When we see computing history from the consciousness perspective, certain famous milestones (for example Babbage’s difference engine) don’t even merit a footnote. A new set of devices takes focus, and new signature dates appear.

Instead of black and white (machines are either conscious, or they’re not) we can now see the world in color. This elaborate, manifold and splendid thing I call machine consciousness is curiously comparable to human consciousness. Machines pose an existential threat to humanity, not because they will one day be like us, but because they will never be like us.

My book sheds light on the threat of artificial intelligence, amongst other risks. There is more to machine mind than just AI, and my collection of facets allows us to see the full picture. Some of the scariest parts of technology developed long ago, some of the gravest threats are already present, and clear steps are available to ensure a future both for our culture and ourselves as individuals in the coming decades.

Practical considerations aside, this model of machine mind sheds new light on our own experiences. Through machine consciousness we can now understand ourselves and what it means to be a living being.

In just under 90 pages, Living With Frankenstein tells a compact story, designed to provide ample fodder for thought without the tedium typically encountered when reading about this subject. Not to mention it’s dirt cheap. Check out my book, share it and review it if you find it fine. As always I love to hear your perspective, this book would not have been possible without feedback from readers like you.



Steven Schkolne

South African/American Caltech CS PhD, turned international artist, turned questioner of everything we assume to be true about technology. Also 7 feet tall.