Laurie Frankel’s Goodbye for Now suggests that coping with death in the electronic age might be the next available computer application. In a modern adaptation of Love Story, Frankel uses today’s obsession with the cyber world and its possibilities to craft a touching story, while addressing the issues that the impersonalization of electronic communication creates.
After Sam Elling designs the perfect computer match dating scheme, he loses his job at the dot com headquarters – seems the company only makes money when the participants keep returning. Sam’s programming is too perfect, and the couples using Sam’s algorithm match so well, they don’t need to try again.
Sam soon applies his skill to helping his girlfriend, Meredith, overcome her grief when her grandmother dies suddenly. With his programming of the grandmother’s old emails and Skype connections, Sam has her respond to a goodbye letter that Meredith created to assuage her feelings of loss. Soon, he has them connecting by video chat, and a new business is born – RePose. Meredith and Sam suddenly find themselves the CEO’s of a new company that offers communication with dead loved ones. Of course, the simulation is not real, and the program can only use information supplied by emails and other electronic communication the client has had with the living person.
Though you may cringe at first at Sam’s use of artificial intelligence to create contact with a replication of someone who is dead, the story soon becomes a fascinating examination of the magic of computers – and their limitations.
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