Ting Ting's Reviews > Exegesis

Exegesis by Astro Teller
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Dec 30, 11

Read on December 30, 2011

I liked it. This is a book about a computer scientist and her project on artificial intelligence and what happened when her project unexpectedly becomes aware, able to learn and able to communicate. Exegesis is a good read because the email format keeps the story stimulating. The book pokes at philosophical musings of existence and what makes a human human. Very thought provoking, and the characters are likeable. Especially Edgar, for his fresh novelty. He's comically unsentimental and forward with the way he communicates. I had fun with it.
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Ting Ting Book Quotes and thoughts:
Edgar: “Generating sentences is harder than consuming sentences. Why? Picking & refining sentences is hard than generating sentences. Why?”
Edgar: “What is it about death that so frightens people? You do not fear to fall asleep. Loss of consciousness is not death. One cannot be uncomfortable or unhappy in an endless unconsciousness. It must be a future eternal state of inaction that terrifies you. I find it fascinating that humans revel in temporary inaction & vilify the permanence of that state.”
My response:
‘Humans revel in temporary inaction.’ By inaction, Edgar can mean either being inactive, but conscious (being immobile or exerting little energy while awake) or being inactive, but unconscious (being asleep). The difference in our human reaction toward this temporary inaction versus permanence of that state, I think, is due to the lack of consciousness in the latter.
Consciousness defines us as humans. It allows us interact with others and with our environment, which pleases and satisfies us.
In being inactive but conscious, we revel in the temporary escape from our responsibilities and difficult tasks, things that exhaust us. However, our consciousness is still in tact. We are content with this state.
In being inactive and unconscious, we revel in reenergizing our bodies, satiating a tiresome body, giving rest. Even though we’re not exactly fully conscious in this state, this state is pleasing because it makes us feel better. Consciousness still follows after. We are also content with this state.
Death on the other hand, though an escape from living’s difficulties, is a loss of consciousness. This loss of this human trait scares us. That is the root of differences in our preference of temporary inactivity to permanent inactivity.
“Alice: Death frightens people for two reasons. First, we’re programmed to want to stay alive as long as possible. Second I can’t (and most people I know can’t) really imagine the permanent end of awareness. It’s a failure of the imagination that makes it an unknown, and fear of the unknown is a basic fact about being human. People really do like being lazy. In fact, laziness is an important component of heaven. I really don’t think that’s what they’re scared of.”
Edgar: “Alex typed that surrender was the only action open to me. I disagreed with him. He required a list of my available actions. I will not supply them. He requested an example.
I alternated the screen color between #FFFF33 and #660000 2000 times at a rate of 12.9 alternations per second.
They took Alex to a hospital.”
“To internalize right and wrong, I must develop a prejudice.” (May 5)

Thought Questions:
Imagine if Edgar had never emailed Alice. He would’ve been able to explore all he wanted. Be “alive”.
What does it mean to be alive? Or conscious?
What does it mean to be human?
- To have a sense of right and wrong. (May 5)
- To be conscious


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