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.
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.
A really fun fast read that has held up well. Some of the physics is just wrong (confusing relativistic increase in mass with an increase in rest mass...moreA really fun fast read that has held up well. Some of the physics is just wrong (confusing relativistic increase in mass with an increase in rest mass / gravity), outdated (the universe is only 13.7 years old), or half baked ( an event a billion light years away would take a billion years to show up, so you can't take a picture of it yet).
The twists and surprises are setup enough that you can guess what is coming, but the novel is perfect nevertheless. This is great, fast paced story telling with some depth. I was pleased to see that Frank Herbert stole some ideas from this.
Why isn't this more famous? Yeah, you should read it. (less)
I needed a quick read distraction and this provided it. Awful writing, hard to tell one good guy from the other (except for the two headed guy), and...more
I needed a quick read distraction and this provided it. Awful writing, hard to tell one good guy from the other (except for the two headed guy), and a really, really awful depiction of women as lower than animals.
But it is the first story about generation ships so I enjoyed reading it for that reason. (less)
I don't think I've read a science fiction book quite like this one. The first few sections caught me a bit bored, which caused me to put the book down...moreI don't think I've read a science fiction book quite like this one. The first few sections caught me a bit bored, which caused me to put the book down for more than a year, but I decided to get through it and finally made it to the more imaginative and exciting parts. I am not of a big fan of the first part with its tedious wars of Europe and China and the United State, from a pre WWII point of view, but once he gets into the distant future things get interesting.
The joy of this book is in the imagination of the writer, but also in the datedness of the writer. For example, he predicts that we will be able to manipulate the source of heredity in a few million years (genetic engineering) which of course as a prediction is a bit off, but amazing that he was thinking about it 1930. Nuclear power was centuries away, etc. Also, a lot of the future keeps coming back to the Englishman, which always amuses me. Makes me think of how Star Trek is always concerned with 20th century Earth, especially the United States, for some reason, a trap that Star Wars brilliantly side stepped.
He predicts many technologies that we are currently wrestling with but did not exist in 1930 when he wrote this, and assumes that man will just never get out of our solar system, which may just turn out to be true, who knows? I also love his concepts of time travel and time manipulation and when he gets really weird (e.g. culture affects gravity).
For a guy who writes a book that goes a billion years into the future, much of the writing is just anthropologic outlines of changes in societies and in the physical forms that man might take in the future, but I found that reading it bit by bit and worked and I was able to get through the whole thing quite satisfied. (less)
Good fun if you are a astronomy nerd. It's written like science fiction, but with almost no feeling in it. The narrator just jumps around the universe...moreGood fun if you are a astronomy nerd. It's written like science fiction, but with almost no feeling in it. The narrator just jumps around the universe in his spaceship describing what he finds.
Scientifically accurate, but we never learn how the narrator feels to be alone for so many years while everyone that he ever knew died 1000's of years before. A liitle humanity would have made this read a lot more fun. (less)
Surprisingly good book. The characters are real and fascinating and the book is not boring as I feared. Explores science, religion, politics, and fami...moreSurprisingly good book. The characters are real and fascinating and the book is not boring as I feared. Explores science, religion, politics, and family.
This book was written in the 80's about 1999, so it gets a lot wrong. But read it with an open mind and it is adds another exciting layer - like an alternate history. It describes a 1999 that could have been if the cold war hadn't ended, if apartheid still reigned, if technology had taken a different path.
I wonder how Sagan ended up being a good writer. How much was ghost written?
As for the movie there are big differences here, but in general the book is deeper and more satisfying. The religious resolutions in the end are very different. The movie's resolution maybe a bit more realistic in this one regard. (less)