I love the themes of this book: multiple universes, long now, Project Orion, all kinds of math, and so on. I imagine this book would be extremely dull...moreI love the themes of this book: multiple universes, long now, Project Orion, all kinds of math, and so on. I imagine this book would be extremely dull at best or unintelligible at worst for someone who is not already versed in these topics. But ultimately the book didn't gel because of a lack of characterization or even an ending.
Stephenson takes the odd decision to take normal words and make them sound foreign ("up sight" instead of "insight", "polycomsmi" instead of "multiverse"), presumably to give this planet a foreign feel, but it just made the book harder to read. There is no reason to call "technology" "praxis". Around 20% into the book I finally figured out what people were talking about as I got used to of all of the made up words and started back from the beginning so I could understand what I had been reading. Hint: use the glossary. This kind of obfuscation was annoying, but now that I know the words it is fun to speak this language, and I love the term "jeejah".
Some of the characters were unique enough to stand on their own, but 90% blended together and seemed to have no distinctive personalities. I still don't know who was who, even males and females seemed to be the same people, nor do I care too much about most of them.
Stephenson's partisan attack on people who believe semantics are an emergent property from syntax left me feeling offended, because I am one of them, and his concepts of the foundations of mathematics being a "flow" into this universe seemed to be missing the point of the concept, at least to me. Maybe I need to read some Plato.
But like all Stephenson books, it just kinds of peters out, like he couldn't figure out how to tie things together and got bored so he just ends it. There was nothing satisfying about the finale at all.
Nevertheless, I liked the book and I guess if I cared enough to complain about it, it is because it spoke to me about concepts I care about, and I love the world that he crafts, with its preservation of knowledge in monasteries.
This is an interesting and very short paper, but Vinge seems stuck on the idea that machines will suddenly wake up one day, like some bad science fict...moreThis is an interesting and very short paper, but Vinge seems stuck on the idea that machines will suddenly wake up one day, like some bad science fiction movie, and that this will hit humanity as a big surprise. That it will all be sudden. It could be that we will be very aware of machines getting smarter and smarter, and we get better at making them compatible with human values. I seriously doubt that any machine will ever just "wake up" unintentionally. The problem of consciousness is far too hard to happen by accident.
Also, he seems to assume that the machines will necessarily be subject to the same foibles and vices that humans have. A machine will have whatever values we build into it. It need not be built to have the drive to conquer and the drive to protect its own ego, and so on, or at least so far I don't see why it would have to have those drives. In fact, it might be built to value human tranquility. I have read other articles where even these machine values could go horribly wrong - imagine a hyper intelligent and powerful machine furiously focused on maximizing your happiness - it could be pretty horrific. But Vinge doesn't address these issues head-on in this paper.
Vinge predicts the singularity will happen between 2005 and 2030. Keep in mind he wrote this in 1993. I think the Singularity is probably going to happen, but so far it doesn't feel like it will happen in the next 15 years. It might still be 50 or 200 years off, there is just no way to know yet. But my main hope is that it happens slowly enough that we go along with it, we enhance ourselves and so are not really left behind, or crushed in the event. Vinge discusses this, but seems to see this as a dark exit. I am not convinced it would be a bad thing.