The allusion to Wittgenstein, which leads to his quasi-behaviorism, which leads to the Turing Test, was clever.
The allusion to Frank Jackson? Less clever. Worries about the rights of artificial persons? Tired. We’ve heard this discussion before, since Blade Runner at least.
But the deep dependence on the plot of The Magus was a surprise; the likely fact that no one will mention this because Fowles is not taught is itself interesting, as is the consilience with the change in the plot [spoiler]: things don’t work out for our “Nicholas” quite as well. The object of his affection, rather, becomes the protagonist ultimately. It’s not that The Magus couldn’t be written today: it’s that it would have to be written from the perspective of Rose and Lily, and love would not be the answer, but an worst an illusion, at best a manipulative tool for facilitating liberation from the patriarchy.
What does this tell us? That the bourgeois individualism of The Magus is probably not a permissible object of study in academia anymore… unless the bourgeois individualist doing the self-discovery and self-liberation is A Person of No Privilege (in this case, white and straight, but at least female and non-human). By contrast, A Person of Privilege is allowed to critique bourgeois individualism (even though this is essentially self-criticism, thus self-discovery, thus bourgeois individualism all over again, and as long as the critique focuses on the cultural surface effects and in no way speculates as to the mechanisms which produce them, and hence to strategies of dismantlement.)