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The Lifecycle of Software Objects

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,585 Ratings  ·  323 Reviews
What's the best way to create artificial intelligence? In 1950, Alan Turing wrote, "Many people think that a very abstract activity, like the playing of chess, would be best. It can also be maintained that it is best to provide the machine with the best sense organs that money can buy, and then teach it to understand and speak English. This process could follow the normal ...more
Hardcover, 150 pages
Published July 31st 2010 by Subterranean
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Derek Lim you can actually read the whole text for free on the publisher's website

unfortunately it is currently out of…more
you can actually read the whole text for free on the publisher's website

unfortunately it is currently out of print, and the cheapest copies on amazon right now are around $90. (less)
Ready Player One by Ernest ClineThe Martian by Andy WeirOld Man's War by John ScalziThe Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsAnathem by Neal Stephenson
Best Science Fiction of the 21st Century
252nd out of 501 books — 5,592 voters
The Martian by Andy WeirReady Player One by Ernest ClineLeviathan Wakes by James S.A. CoreyAncillary Justice by Ann LeckieThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Science Fiction - 2010-2019
33rd out of 257 books — 324 voters

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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dec 02, 2010 j rated it liked it
Recommends it for: ash ketchum
Recommended to j by: subterranean press
Remember virtual pets? Those little electronic animals that lived in keychains, and you had to feed them and clean up their poop

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and they were really neat for about two weeks, before everyone* realized that pressing buttons to pretend to feed and play with something is totally boring?

*except Japanese people, who apparently still buy them in great numbers, but when it comes to adorable tchotchkes, they're always outliers anyway.

Ted Chiang's novella The Lifecycle of Software Objects w
May 02, 2011 Eh?Eh! rated it really liked it
I've just noticed Chiang to read him, and abruptly reached the end of his published body of work. I would like to chain him to a very large rock and make him write more. *whipcrack*

Told in present tense and skipping forward years or months, it follows the development, inevitable obsolescence, and striving for the sake of a virtual pet product called a digient. The humor is quiet and sly - I loved it. The human to human issues thread through, just enough to see the impacts of this product on peop
Apr 28, 2013 Apatt rated it it was amazing
Another home run from Ted Chiang. Almost long enough to be a novel, this is a story about AI, "sentient software", virtual creatures and our responsibility toward them. The idea is that if we are going to play gods and create sentient beings (even virtual ones) we have a moral obligation to ensure the safety and well being of the creatures we create. That they are not flesh and blood is immaterial.

The theme of responsibility for AI entities we created remind me of the "dust theory" in Permutatio
Ben Babcock
Anyone else remember Creatures? I played that game when I was younger … I might still have it around somewhere in a closet. Hmm, maybe I should dig it out. Because The Lifecycle of Software Objects reminded me of Creatures (albeit without the breeding). The digients in Ted Chiang's novella are artificially-intelligent software programs who begin as a genome created by software developers. The genome is just a starting place, however, and more complex traits emerge as the digients learn from huma ...more
3.0 to 3.5 stars. If you have seen my review of Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang, you know that I think Ted Chiang is arguably the best writer of speculative short fiction working today. This is Chiang's longest work to date (at 150 pages I would call it either a very long novella or a very short novel) and while the writing was excellent, I didn't find myself having the same emotional reaction as I had to his shorter work (especially Hell is the Absence of God which is in my top 10 ...more
Aug 14, 2012 Laurel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010
Wow - I would never have seen such a touching ending coming, from a very sci fi topic. But, that's the beauty of sci fi. A story that is able to turn a mirror on our own culture, through a fantastical concept.

On a personal note, the book beautifully demonstrates the reason why novellas are so powerful. I know that many want Chiang to transition to a longer form, but if this novella had been expanded into a novel, it would have lost its potency.

I hesitate to say more, because I think the journe
Apr 07, 2016 Ubiqua rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ted Chiang parla di intelligenza artificiale e si confronta con Asimov senza batter ciglio.

L’eterna domanda «Cosa è umano?», o meglio, come decidiamo cosa è umano? nel libro di Chiang non viene posta. Il suo discorso è un altro: queste A.I. non sono umane; sono un’altra cosa. E noi umani dobbiamo rispettare la loro diversità. I personaggi s’interrogano su quali obblighi morali abbiano verso queste creature, che per altro non sono dei robot: hanno un rapporto col mondo reale che li riempie di mer
Aug 08, 2016 Claudia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, z-to-a-chiang
The interaction between humans and AIs in a unique approach. The virtual world created seems even more plausible by the almost journal-like style of the story.

Also reading Chiang's afterword makes one realize that even if AIs seems to be a tomorrow achievement, it will be a while until we’ll have Ava amongst us. But in the mean time, you can try see what it’s like interacting with... it/her? You choose ;)
Althea Ann
Jun 12, 2012 Althea Ann rated it really liked it
I was very excited to read this, as I’ve loved every story by Chiang I’ve ever read. “Stories of Your Life…” is one of the most excellent collections of short stories out there. However, it’s undeniable that Chiang’s work is idea-based, rather than character-based or plot-driven. He just happens to have more really good ideas than most people.
Still, I feel that his format is more suited to short stories than to longer fiction. ‘Lifecycle…” is a novella, rather than a full novel, but it’s a bit
Feb 04, 2015 Michael rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf, group-read, 2015
This book is incredible. Short, but proper, intelligent SF that doesn't just get you thinking about artificial intelligence, but our relationships with our children, our pets and each other.

This is the first thing by Ted Chiang I've read - I understand from other reviews that it's nowhere near his best work. That's quite a scary proposition.
May 28, 2011 Alexandra rated it it was amazing
I read this online at Subterranean, where it originally appeared.

I found it really hard to rate this story. Not that I don't think it's an utterly incredible story - I do. But I found the very end a bit disappointing, so not for the first time I found myself longing for half-stars. And I have absolutely no idea how I missed reading it last year; I must just have completely missed the name Ted Chiang. I've finally got around to it now because it's on the Novella ballot for the Hugos - against two
Jul 23, 2014 Liviu rated it it was amazing
It is Ted Chiang it is a must is an axiom of sff short stories since nobody does them better today. The Lifecycle which is presented as a novella though it reads like a short novel since it has the depth and length for such, is no exception and despite that the subject is among the most mundane Mr. Chiang tackled in his stories and there is a lot of stuff about gaming, virtual worlds and such that usually have very little if any interest for me, I was sucked in the story and could not put it dow ...more
Daniel Roy
May 18, 2011 Daniel Roy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf, novella
This novella made me want to hunt down a Nintendo console and give it a long hug. The title may sound like some dry technical manual, but the story is warm, human, touching and funny. It's the best type of SF story: one that makes you think, makes you smile, and leaves you with a glimpse of deeper understanding of human nature.

Yes, it's that good.

In the near future, companies start producing digients, online AI designed as pets, kind of Tamagotchi on steroids. The novella takes us across a few y
Jenny (Reading Envy)
May 22, 2011 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: LEDBC
I noticed that a lot of the reviewers of this were horrified at the concepts, but as someone who knows a few crazy cat ladies in a virtual world, this didn't seem very far-fetched to me. The Lifecycle of Software Objects was nominated for both a Nebula and a Hugo this year, and I finally got around to reading it after the Nebula winners were announced. It is basically a story of what could happen if a company intent on making a profit created digients - sentient virtual pets.
Maggie K
Sep 27, 2013 Maggie K rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hugo-locus
I love reading Ted Chiang's always seems to punch me right in the gut, in a good way. He sets up what seems to be little piece of life stories, when all of a sudden the implications of what just happened kind of smack you in the face. I LOVE stories like that.
Its hard to even get the point across of what the story is about, but just do yourself a favor and read it!
Another terrific novella from Ted Chiang. In a future virtual world, people raise "digients", cute autonomous avatars driven by a primitive AI. The more they interact with humans, the more mature the artificial critters become. Meanwhile, among their owners, there's another set of interesting human relationships playing out.
Aug 24, 2015 Jose rated it it was amazing
This is my first book by Chiang and I have been greatly amazed. The author has a rare ability for putting his heart when writing about technology: the text, beautifully written, is the testimony of how much Chiang loves computer science. The starting point (a company developing and selling adorable virtual pets) gets increasingly more complex and serves at the perfect ground for slowly deploying interesting philosophical, ethical, and sociological questions (it is also worthwhile paying attentio ...more
May 13, 2012 Gendou rated it really liked it
A short, cute story of digital pets that become something more to their owners and to society.
Sep 15, 2014 Andrea rated it it was amazing
It is natural that Asimov's Bicentennial Man come to mind. To be honest that's exactly what I was looking for: a SF novel that had the same evocative(or premonitory) power then Asimov's masterpiece.

The point of view is unusual: it is an omniscient "neutral" narrator, which speaks in third person, using the simple present; he adheres almost exclusively on what he sees or hears, remembering an observer who takes notes. The expression "I love you" only appears 2 times in the whole story: "I love yo
Apr 17, 2012 zxvasdf rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book. A far cry from the Tamagotchi of the 90's, the virtual creatures in this book effect the same sense of empathy one gets with domestic animals. This chronicles the digient's rise into popularity, and their eventual abandonment for better and badder virtual forms.

The digient is of rudimentary intellect, and is like a child that doesn't grow up. But if you're not shallow or heartless you can't help but love them. You might go as far as to get a robot for them to can downl
Claudia Piña
Al principio me pareció una idea algo chocante, eso de que la gente del futuro va por la vida conectándose a realidades alternas, con su avatar y todo y comprando mascotas y software inútil, pero es indudable que es un reflejo de ciertos grupos actuales, no solo en cuánto a las "realidades virtuales" sino en cuanto a otros temas que poco a poco aparecen. Desde estas realidades alternas (que bien podrían ser redes sociales), hasta la necesidad de conexión que tantas personas tienen y cómo la sati ...more
Mar 10, 2014 Louise rated it liked it
I've been wanting to read something by Chiang for a while and as soon as I saw the art on the front of this book, I knew i had to read it. Unfortunately, it didn't deliver all that I wanted.

The title is both very apt and misleading. The short novel is about the life cycle of software objects, but more specifically, it's about a set of virtual pets, called digients, which develop artificial intelligence. Most of the book covers how people react to the newly introduced digients and how they get us
Oct 04, 2010 Rob rated it really liked it
...The Lifecycle of Software Objects is a very interesting little work. It raises a lot of questions for which no simple answers exist, as the ending of the novel clearly shows. Despite the brief descriptions of the various episodes in the development of the Digients I thought this novella a very interesting read. There is no doubt some people will be put off by the fact that it is such a focussed work. Even if it concentrates on the project of teaching software as you would a child, this book l ...more
Julie Davis
Good Story #28. Scott finally admits to Julie that he's a digient. Julie knew it all along.


I cannot believe I never mentioned this book on Goodreads since it completely blew me away when I read it originally, back when it was being distributed for people to read before Hugo voting.

Here's part of a Ted Chiang column I wrote that dealt with this novella.
After the zoo she worked at closes, animal specialist Ana Alvarado is hired as a trainer/psychologist to care for a group of "digients,"
Sep 25, 2010 Hirondelle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-pieces, sf
Review in progress - sometimes it takes me days and a few edits to say what I want to say and have it sound as coherent as possible. I would rather publish drafts here as an incentive to not forget!

There is something glorious in books that make me emotional, think a lot and then not be totally sure of what was right.

But first a small rant on the physical object. I was disappointed at how hard it was to find this for sale and the price of it. Maybe the release date was wrong, because eventually t
Jan 30, 2014 A rated it it was amazing
Recommended to A by: Alarra
This was my first experience of Ted Chiang, and it absolutely knocked my socks off. To me it is the most engaging kind of speculative fiction - the kind that feels like it's already happening right now, from someone who's involved. I did not expect to be as moved as I was by the ending either. If you are a dev, you should read this. Actually, everybody should read this.
Chris W
Apr 30, 2014 Chris W rated it really liked it
Wow this book created an amazing universe. I'm really sad it was so short but I enjoyed the book. Great piece of sci-fi.
Ted Chiang is a beloved author in the science fiction community because his work is intelligent, asks important questions and has an emotional resonance within its cerebral structures. Two human caretakers of virtual digients or AI creatures form the core of this novel that delves into human relationships and the bonds we make in virtual worlds with beings created via computers. Parenting is a theme that Chiang likes to explore and he does so with stirring effect here. His writing is masterful, ...more
Stacey Falls
Jun 13, 2015 Stacey Falls rated it really liked it
Sweet and engaging. This little novella works to get at some of the basic questions or humanity. Who are we? How do we learn what we do? How do we learn our sense of morals and ethics? And if computers can learn and grow through sensory input, what makes carbon based life unique?
Aug 05, 2016 Katherine rated it liked it
I read this before going to a reading/interview with Ted Chiang, which was phenomenal. I've been looking for more sci fi that's about mundanity, decay, obsolescence, maintenance, and trash (c.f. "The Future Mundane" and "the used future"), and this is a perfect example. The story's main conflict and drive is bitrot and the desire to maintain. Also this was pretty cosmopunk.

That said, I didn't like this as much as his other stories. At its heart is less a mind-blowing idea than an idea that we're
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Ted Chiang (born 1967) is an American speculative fiction writer. His Chinese name is Chiang Feng-nan. He was born in Port Jefferson, New York and graduated from Brown University with a Computer Science degree. He currently works as a technical writer in the software industry and resides in Bellevue, near Seattle, Washington. He is a graduate of the noted Clarion Writers Workshop (1989).

Although n
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“Women who work with animals hear this all the time: that their love for animals must arise out of a sublimated child-rearing urge. Ana's tired of the stereotype. She likes children just fine, but they're not the standard against which all other accomplishments should be measured. Caring for animals is worthwhile in and of itself, a vocation that need offer no apologies.” 22 likes
“Experience is algorithmically incompressible.” 11 likes
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