A fun, fast paced science fiction thriller. I read it in 2 nights and couldn't put it down. The book is about the quantum theory of many worlds whichA fun, fast paced science fiction thriller. I read it in 2 nights and couldn't put it down. The book is about the quantum theory of many worlds which states that all decisions we make throughout our lives basically create branches, and that each possible path through the decision tree can be thought of as a parallel world. And in this book, someone invents a way to switch between these worlds. This was nicely alluded to/foreshadowed in this quote:
(view spoiler)[This book can't be discussed without spoilers. It is a book about choice and regret. Ever regret not chasing the girl of your dreams so you can focus on your career? Well Jason2 made that choice and then did regret it. Clearly the author is trying to tell us to optimize for happiness - to be that second rate physics teacher at a community college if it means you can have a happy life. I'm being snarky because while there is certainly something to that, you also have to have meaning in your life that comes from within. I thought the book was a little shallow on this dimension. In fact, all the characters were fairly shallow. Daniela was the perfect wife. Ryan the perfect antithesis of Jason. Amanda the perfect loyal traveling companion, etc. This, plus the fact that the book was weak on the science are what led me to take a few stars off - but I'd still read it again if I could go back in time - was a very fun and engaging read.
If you want to really minimize regret, you have to live your life to avoid it in the first place. Regret can't be hacked, which is kind of the point of the book. My favorite book about regret is Remains of the Day. I do really like the visualization of the decision tree though - that is a powerful concept.
A fun, humorous, fast-paced, and fascinating take on what happens when an AI awakens. In order to tell this story, Reid invents a fictional Silicon VaA fun, humorous, fast-paced, and fascinating take on what happens when an AI awakens. In order to tell this story, Reid invents a fictional Silicon Valley company called Pluttr, which seems sort of like a mashup of Snapchat+Facebook+WeChat but with more big data about us all, so it’s able to really personalize it’s experience. Frankly it seems like a good idea and where the afore mentioned companies are likely going. And this is one of my favorite things about good science fiction - it predicts the future. While not everything about this novel will come true, it is clear that Reid - who is a former tech CEO himself (and disclosure, a friend) - did his homework about technological trends and weaves them in nicely to a thrilling singularity story (Note: the book doesn’t use the word “singularity” at all, in a homage to current silicon valley trends, because for some reason that I get but don’t quite understand that word is passé - but instead to renames it “the omega point”).
One of the most interesting aspects of the book for me is the fictional company Phluttr. I mean, when an AI finally awakens you’d have to put your money on Google doing it (if it happens in the private sector) - they are the furthest along in the intersection of having the key ingredients: lots of data about people, AI technology, and computing power. But I suppose it would be weird to use a real company - Dave Eggers The Circle was similar in describing a company that was basically FB+Google. But as I said, it does seem like the descriptions of Phluttr will happen, once the both the AI improves (pretty much possible now), the dataset known about each user vastly increases (happening in some pockets), and computing power improves (will be there soon). And thinking through the possibilities of what that will enable was super fun. For instance, there was an scene in the beginning of the book where Phluttr deduced that two of the characters were at the same bar and likely there on a date, and gave them coupons and messages/information appropriate to that deduction.
One of the more interesting philosophical questions tackled by the book is: should we try to accelerate creation of a super AI? Since the first one created will have a decisive advantage and any other super AI’s created will never catch up to its intelligence nor power. Many think that the creation of a super AI is inevitable anyways, and there is a chance that whoever creates it may retain some control or benefit - though there is a very high risk you wouldn't - which is the debate. (view spoiler)[The book has characters that take both sides of this question, but ultimately lands that major countries (US, China, others) will get into an “arms race” and strive to create it. Doesn’t seem unlikely. AI in general (regardless of a super AI) will be the next nuclear arms race, no question - already is if you look at all the hacking and security issues (eg US presidential election). (hide spoiler)]
But don’t let my introspections about the subject matter make you think this is a deep thinking AI book. It is a fast paced, fun thriller with a twist at the end. It’s also got a good amount of self-deprecating-silicon-valley humor - eg I loved the fictional persuadif.er blog, with posts such as “Eat on the phone” and then you find poor characters like Pugwash doing just that. Or fun references thrown in like how Tim Tebow is now a VR tycoon (huh?). Bottom line: this captures interesting technological trends in a humorous & thrilling read - highly recommended!...more
An amazing and unique creation: JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst created what reads like a classic work of fiction - something you can easily imagine having rAn amazing and unique creation: JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst created what reads like a classic work of fiction - something you can easily imagine having read in English class - and then wrote a intriguing side story in the margins. A grad student (Eric) has left his annotated copy of SOT (Ship of Theseus) in the library, and an undergrad (Jen) finds it and replies to his annotations. This leads to them making exciting discoveries about the book, and also falling in love.
The first thing is this book is just beautifully printed. It looks and feels like a classic book, to the point where people would ask me why I'm reading such an old book. The marginalia feels real, and I can only imagine how hard that was to print. This is one that will be cool to keep on the shelves. Only complaint is the inserts are a cool idea, but they fall out all the time, and at this point I have no idea which pages they were supposed to be on.
The most interesting thing about this book to me is that it's a blueprint for how people discuss books. Sometimes they discuss the content of the book. Other times they use the content as a jumping off point to have a personal discussion. The nature of this book shows both, almost split 50/50. A key difference with this book - and the genius of it - is that most of us have to rely on memory to start a conversation with someone about a particular event or passage in the book. Here, our characters can literally underline a phrase like "relationships" and then talk about what is happening in their relationship at the moment.
One thing I didn't realize until later in the book is that the ship of Theseus is a real thing - it's an ancient Greek philosophical question - if you replace all the parts of something, is it still the same object? This inspires the ship that S is captured on, which sails through the mists of time, always getting fixed when needed. It's a ship that can't die. Or a series of ships :)
I found the story of Jen & Eric a lot more compelling than the SOT story. They were real characters that you could relate to. SOT felt like books you read in english class - a bit obtuse - and I still don't understand it all. But don't get me wrong - it's a pretty cool story. I particularly enjoyed the themes - like how it all begins and ends with water, and also how it was a lot about Straka's regret to fulfill his mission instead of living his life with his true love. Kind of like how S was on a mission, but didn't really know why - he just found himself caught up in it.
**spoiler alert** Hooked me equally as well as the first one, though it was a little slower paced. He definitely had you guessing as to who the killer**spoiler alert** Hooked me equally as well as the first one, though it was a little slower paced. He definitely had you guessing as to who the killer was!
I would have liked it to dive more into the sex trade and it's economics, and not focus so much on Salander and every detail of what she did while on vacation. She definitely is an interesting character though. The math references were just strange though and didn't add much....more
I haven't stayed up until 5am to finish a book in a while - it felt good. This was a great murder-mystery thriller, and more interesting as it's set iI haven't stayed up until 5am to finish a book in a while - it felt good. This was a great murder-mystery thriller, and more interesting as it's set in Sweden and deals with journalists, corporations, and hackers. Good stuff!...more
**spoiler alert** Critics aside, Dan Brown can sure write a thriller. I was stuck in an airport with no book and picked this up, and was done with it**spoiler alert** Critics aside, Dan Brown can sure write a thriller. I was stuck in an airport with no book and picked this up, and was done with it in 2 days.
The first half of the book was really gripping, and promised big things. We were going to learn about the secrets of the Masons, and about the "ancient wisdom" that has been lost through the ages. Sounds cool - I wanted to learn more about the ancient wisdom. But the end of the book just fell really flat. The villian was predictable, and we learned nothing about this ancient wisdom.
I also have to say that I almost fell out of bed laughing with Dan Brown plugged Twitter at the end of the book. To be fair, he's right - people are excited about Twitter because it (along with many other websites) is helping cause a shift in our society. But I can't help wondering if 5 years from now, when Twitter is MySpace, people will read that and think "wtf?"....more
**spoiler alert** Kind of Dan Brown-esque but with a fun geek twist. And the geek in me enjoyed it. Would have given it four stars, but I didn't love**spoiler alert** Kind of Dan Brown-esque but with a fun geek twist. And the geek in me enjoyed it. Would have given it four stars, but I didn't love the ending. It was a truly interesting premise though: A computer programmer dies of cancer and leaves behind a program that kicks into life when it sees his obituary in the news, and wreaks havoc with some unknown goal in sight.
In the first half of the book I had a lot of fun trying to imagine the program that Sobol wrote. It was basically a big logic tree, where each possibly outcome in the real world was accounted for in the program. It would have taken a lot of preparation and attention to detail to go through all the possible outcomes and not missing anything, and one bug could make the whole thing fail. Wouldn't that be embarrassing? I guess Sobol had some good unit tests?
In the second half of the book (trying to not give anything away), the AI goes beyond what I think a skilled programmer could do today. Certainly an interesting thought exercise, but playing up a little bit too much on our fear of "oh my gosh all information is digital now so a hacker could just take out our whole society!" Many a hacker has stayed up all night with the same thoughts!
What I really want to know is where I can get some of those voice projector/sensors? They sound cool!...more
Sometimes you just need a quick fun book. I read this over Easter weekend, and loved every second. I loved the movie too, but the book was better.
ThiSometimes you just need a quick fun book. I read this over Easter weekend, and loved every second. I loved the movie too, but the book was better.
This book really wasn't intellectual, but it did make one interesting point. In the book you can only vote if you have gone through and graduated from military training. This prevents the uneducated and uncommitted citizens from voting. While this is a bit extreme, I might be of the opinion that there should be some more barriers to voting (like a standardized test). Otherwise our elections end up being a marketing contest. Name recognition is huge in marketing - would W have won otherwise? Would Hilary have a chance?...more