[FoRK] Douglas Adams: Is there an Artificial God?
<jbone at place.org> on
Fri Jul 13 09:12:09 PDT 2007
On Jul 13, 2007, at 9:15 AM, Matt Crawford wrote:
>> 3. computation -- seeing that little tiny things can add up to make
>> complex things
>> Someone asks from the audience, "What's the 4th age of sand?"
>> He notes: greater and greater interconnection, many-many
> Related reading: _Rainbows_End_, by Vernor Vinge. As always, he
> extrapolates more plausibly and yet more excitingly than other SF
Hmm, I do love Vinge, but I can't agree that his detailed
extrapolations are any more (or even as) plausible than / as other SF
writers in that same vein. He seems to make bold and provocative
"large inferences" but the gritty minutia and the path from here to
there just isn't his strong suit... (For example: despite all the
trappings of very High Technology --- localizers, interstellar
travel, FTL galaxy-scale data networking, etc. --- his characters
continue to be largely human-scale intelligences, with the occasional
Big Bad AI. Yet he doesn't convincingly explore why this is the case
or how interstellar society functions w/o there being massive deltas
in relative individual power levels.
I'd have to say I prefer (among recent bright lights) Ian McDonald
and Charlie Stross (in his better moments.) The undisputed if less-
recent masters of the gritty detailed extrapolation are George Alec
Effinger (focus on the inherent tension between modernity /
technology and Islam; ubiquitous cell phones and data networking ---
back in the early 80s, when this seemed semi-preposterous, if only
because of the infrastructural chicken / egg hill-climb that was
necessary to get there), Sterling (in various details, mostly re:
social impact of technologies), Gibson (of course), and in better
moments Stephenson (particularly Snow Crash, though that's a life-
imitates-art sort of thing of course..)
This of course brings to mind the old saw: "science fiction isn't
about the future, it's about today."
On that level, the most prescient sci-fi author of the 20th century
may well have been Frank Herbert. Dune is a fantastic discourse on
the relationships between religion, power, and society --- and
particularly the thorny problems and threats of Islamo-fascism,
terrorism, monopoly, and resource-constraint economics.
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