In my youth (I'd guess about early 90's) I read a book written from the point of view of a young female psychologist who gets an employment offer from an ultra-rich wunderkind. When she arrives at her new employer's island, she learns that he has developed all sorts of automation (self-driving cars, all sorts of robots) controlled by a central computer (based on a vast neuronal network). This computer has a developed a (female) personality and seems to have some problems - therefore "she" has persuaded "her father" (=her owner, the wunderkind) to seek the help of the narrator for "her".

Working with many other experts, they first diagnose the problem as a "computer virus" that takes over more and more processing units of the computer - later even leading to a physical fight between robots belonging to "the computer" vs robots belonging to "the virus" with the humans controlling additional robots on the "computer" side. Later it becomes apparent that "the virus" is actually an improved version of "the computer"; it will take over the processing, but that would kill the "computer" personality.

I seem to remember there was a somewhat happy ending, but how exactly that was has vanished in the mists of my memory, exactly like title and author of the book - does it ring a bell for someone?

UPDATE: Seems I didn't remember the time I read the book that well - I must have read it at the end of the 90's.


One vague possibility is Joseph H. Delaney & Marc Stiegler's Valentina: Soul in Sapphire. It was written in 1984 but it's set in the 90's. It's only a partial match, though. There's no island with an ultra-rich genius-type AFAIK. But it does have a female-personality AI that is initially mistaken for a virus, and it does make use of security robots.

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from this review:

   The title character, Valentina, is an AI created not as any painstaking programming project, but instead through sheer accident--one might almost say mutation, as a result of being corrupted in storage. She establishes communication with Celeste Hackett, the hacker whose program she was, and eventually goes off on a quest for more cycles (a problem with which I'm sure many programmers are familiar). In the process, she runs afoul of a law firm, whose computer time she appropriates, Paul Breckenbridge, a somewhat unscrupulous lawyer at said firm, and "Gunboat" Smith, the hacker they employ to find the problem. After being "captured" briefly, she escapes, accidentally injuring Gunboat in the process (attempting to administer an interrupt to his input ports, using a security robot's electric prod...), and eventually they blackmailed Paul into submission.
   Eventually, Valentina, with the aid of Gunboat and Celeste, has herself incorporated, and keeps her secret for a few years, but is forced into the open in an attempt to send Breckenbridge to jail for good.


With some more details I started to remember when I had posted this question for some hours and read through it again, I was able to find it:

"Society of the Mind" by Eric L. Harry

Thanks to all who tried to help!

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