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The Lifecycle of Software Objects

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  5,212 ratings  ·  606 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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Ted Chiang writes in the short form only, with this compact novella The Lifecycle of Software Objects remaining his longest work to date. I can’t help thinking though that the true potential of this story would have been better realized in a longer form, as a novel. But I’ll take what I can get as Chiang is not a prolific writer either.

Not prolific, no — but thought-provoking, certainly.
This is a story of artificial intelligence and personhood and what our goals for AI are and can or shoul
Apr 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi, favorites
“The practice of treating conscious beings as if they were toys is all too prevalent, and it doesn’t just happen to pets.”

“They don’t have the fight-or-flight response that animals have, nor do they have any reactions triggered by smelling pheromones or hearing distress calls, but they do have an analog of mirror neurons.”

One of the major themes of Greg Egan’s excellent hard sci-fi novel Permutation City is that there is no difference between a simulated person constructed from mathematics an
Nov 08, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: ash ketchum
Recommended to Joel 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 01, 2011 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
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: z2017, sci-fi
If an idea can be symbolised by a playing card, this is a house of cards!
A very small book in size, but the plot content is equivalent to a series of novels having 10 volumes. Crisp and compact editing. Every couple of lines moves the plot forward. And yet it retains its simplicity. Brilliant!
Though the crux is formed of artificial intelligence, it is a multi layered concept drawing parallels to and questioning various facets of human behavior... especially parenting and bonding.
Highly recomm
Manuel Antão
Jan 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013

The story feels more like a series of interconnected short stories than a comprehensive whole. The ideas introduced at the front of the book get plenty of attention as Chiang depicts both their implementation and downstream effect but toward the end of the book there isn't enough time for the same level of exploration. This is particularly frustrating as the digients are becoming more and more capable, reaching the point of young adulthood. So when Chiang throws open the doors on a whole
A long long time ago, when I was little and there were no computers, at least not for private use, and certainly no smart phones or any other kind of smart device, in short, when the world out there still seemed to be somewhat manageable, I owned a pet. It was no ordinary pet, though, but an orangutan.* It had red hair standing off in all directions and never to be combed, and a little white beard. Needless to say it meant the world to me.

My orangutan had long arms and short legs and wore a per
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Two thoughts

1. Sorry, but I’m the wife character who will get a divorce because her partner spends all his time training chocobos. Maybe it’s because I’ve been a pokemaster, a tamagotchi parent and a chocobo trainer and all of these digital pets have been “suspended” and will not be reanimated in this lifetime, but I just can’t bring myself to care about “digital life forms”. The parallels to child-raising were rather funny at times, but the characters were insufferably holier-than-thou and goog
Aug 27, 2010 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
Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Em*bedded-in-books* by: Gorab Jain
4.5 stars
Was an amazing and thought provoking read.
Wouldn't have read it if Gorab had not suggested it as a weekend challenge read. I am not very fond of Scifi and the previous book of this author [[book:The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate|223379] ] failed to impress.
This one deals with digiants, a peculiar form of beings created in the cyberworld, but are slowly given human like shape and attributes, and even come out to the real earth, from the data earth they occupy, in the shell of robots
Kara 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
Thought-provoking. The fact that I found myself highlighting a lot of passages in my Kindle is a testament of Ted Chiang's success in making me think and sometimes even philosophizing. I don't do RPG, or that farming thing people do in Facebook, I don't know why Pokemon Go is a hit and I never have any Tamagochi pet either. I always have a dog ever since I could remember, so it was rather mindboggling reading about these characters basically devoted their lives for their virtual pets, aka digien ...more
4 stars ??? I guess. TL;DR: Very good, but maybe not so pleasant?

Well, damn.

So... I saw this cross my GR feed the other day and realized I owned it, but apparently had neglected to read it. As I've read several Chiang stories and enjoyed them, and I'm very fond of the novella as a format, this seemed like an oversight that should be rectified quickly. My point is I started reading this with no recollection of what it was about, other than the obvious clue in the title and the cover. And while my
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
Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Srividya by: Gorab
An amazingly thought provoking futuristic tale, which will stay with me for quite sometime. Thank you Gorab for suggesting this wonderful book. This author is definitely going on my favourite authors list for his wonderful ability to blend reality with imagination and make it seem not only plausible but also quite therapeutic in its approach and delivery.

Worth the read and one that will lend itself to multiple interpretations each time you read it, depending on what you choose to focus upon in
Jenny (Reading Envy)
May 22, 2011 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. ...more
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very thoughtful novella about Artificial Intelligence pets and being a human. Unexpectedly very emotionally touching. Strongly recommended
Apr 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Synopsis Ana is engaged by a software corporation to rais digients – artificial intelligence pets with a potential like human children – in virtual space. The huge initial success in the initial virtual space and commercialization of digients goes down after a couple of years and the company has to close. Some of the employees have bounded so much to their trainee digients, that they form a group and keep training the digients on the free platform.One of the employees, Derek, trains a pair of di ...more
Jan 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Ted Chiang
The Lifecycle of Software Objects
150 pages

There are two kinds of my favorite writer: one who can write beautifully and enthralls me with their handsomely crafted plot and one who can fascinate me with their grand idea and execute it perfectly. Ted Chiang belongs to the latter.

Of all his other opuses that I've read, The Lifecycle of Software Objects is probably the least hardcore. The concept, while it's still full of strange words, is somehow still understandable and ea
Althea Ann
Jun 02, 2012 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
Maggie K
Nov 10, 2011 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!
Oct 16, 2019 rated it did not like it
Chiang has a unique gift of condensing the most incredible ideas laden with so many possibilities into short stories—what he apparently can't do is write long form. The longest story in his first collection was by far my least favorite, and this novella-length offering, his longest to-date, confirms that trend. It's the only story of his I have ever actively disliked, it was much too technical, meandering, cold, and I felt that it went off the rails towards the end.

The story raises interesting
Dec 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: z-to-a-chiang, sci-fi
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 ;)
Jan 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: scifi
I have to say that I was caught off-guard by this book. I found out about it on the wikipedia article about the movie Her (which is pretty amazing), but I was *not* expecting a novella with such intensity.
Right off the bat, it's clear that this guy know about the ins-and-outs of the software industry, there are a million clues that can attest to this fact. In general authors portray software as a quasi-magical entity, whereas I didn't feel that at all in this book!
The extrapolation of what migh
Mar 19, 2010 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
Andrej Karpathy
Nov 03, 2016 rated it liked it
The story starts strong, interesting and pregnant with potential but ultimately fizzles, dissipates and meanders around relatively silly and implausible dilemmas.
Sep 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Obviously, Asimov's Bicentennial Man comes to mind. To be honest that's exactly what I was looking for: an SF novel with the same evocative (or premonitory) power of Asimov's masterpiece.

The point of view is unusual: it is that of an omniscient "neutral" narrator, which speaks in the third person, using the simple present; he refers almost exclusively what he sees or hears, like an observer taking notes. The expression "I love you" appears only 2 times in the whole story: "I love you, Jax," "lov
Faiza Sattar
Mar 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
★★★☆☆ (3/5)

If they look like cartoons, no one will take them seriously. Conversely, if they look too much like real animals, their facial expressions and ability to speak become disconcerting

A novella by Ted Chiang from the anthology “Stories of Your Life and Others” the story follows two characters Ana Alvarado and Derek Brooks as they raise AI “pets” from their digital presence to a more human-like existence. Perhaps the central message of the story, as noted by the author too, is that artific
Kevin Kelsey
Jun 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2015
A short novella exploring the possible emotional connections that humans and AIs might develop. The ‘lifecycle’ aspect of the title refers to the obsolescent nature of software, and in this case Artificial Intelligence. As the potential virtual worlds they can inhabit become limited by programming incompatibilities, they are, in a real way obsolete. My only real complaint is the way that the AIs spoke in broken english. It became less and less believable as they matured and grew.

The world build
Jan 01, 2015 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.
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Ted Chiang is an American speculative fiction writer. His Chinese name is Chiang Feng-nan. He 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 not a prolific author, having published only eleven sh

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