T Sale's Blog

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Reading Recommendations

For those of you intrigued by the startling statistics in The World is Flat and shaken by the factoids n our own Karl Fisch’s Did You Know, I’d like to recommend a couple of excellent science fiction books that explore the same kinds of ideas and play with the possibilities of things like the artificial intelligence (AI) more advanced than the human brain.

Accelerando, by Charles Stross, explores the Singularity, that point at which technology is advancing so fast that it’s impossible to even predict what’s next; by the time you predict it, it’s already happened. The book starts in the near future, when people wear glasses that constantly stream information from the Web into their eyes and ears, so that they’re literally wired (or I guess wireless) wherever they go. By the end of the book we’re watching AIs gradually demolishing the inner planets of the solar system to provide raw materials for a vast computer that stretches to the orbit of Jupiter.

River of Gods, by Ian McDonald, takes place in India in 2047, the centennial of India’s formation as a country. In this future world, Krishna Kops use electronic avatars of gods such as Vishnu and Siva to hunt rouge AIs, and the most popular entertainment in India is a soap opera called Town and Country. On this soap opera, not only are the characters computer generated, but the actors who play the characters are virtual as well. Programmers create not only the drama seen on TV, but also the virtual life of the computer actors. (Apparently even the Lindsay Lohans and Mel Gibsons of the world got too tame.)

These books’ future events seem outrageous, but with the Singularity fast approaching, they’ll soon qualify as historical novels.


  • At Fri Aug 18, 03:09:00 PM 2006, Blogger Lary Kleeman said…

    Whoa. After having read this entry earlier in the week (and not commenting on it) it's been on my mind. Singularity. The destructive outcomes. It takes energy to focus on the positive but this is the energy we need since, although we may not be able to control the rate at which the world of artificial intelligence "grows", that doesn't mean we can't live in a world that fosters life and the goodness that can be found within.

    As for being a classroom teacher, to get a glimpse of what the future could hold, especially through science fiction, is important. These writers, although writing for people's enjoyment (and their own), deliver truths (perhaps many that have yet to be experienced). Just look at the work of Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury and George Orwell (although Orwell's not technically science fiction)they've all realized some prophetic truths about our (then)future as a world.


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