[FoRK] Douglas Adams: Is there an Artificial God?

rst at ai.mit.edu <rst at ai.mit.edu> on Fri Jul 13 13:18:11 PDT 2007

Jeff Bone writes:
 > 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.

Well, others have pointed out the "Zones of Thought", and other 
strategies that he uses to quite deliberately keep the superhumans
offstage (though in some of his books they're present; "A Fire Upon
the Deep" even has humans whose job is to figure out what they can
about their behavior, a field of study known by the lovely coinage,
"Applied Theology").

But as to Vinge's skill at extrapolation within those limits, I guess
the best example is "True Names", an novella about, among other
things, criminals coordinating their business within a global-scale
MMORPG.  Most of it reads like it could have been written last week;
only occasional odd turns of phrase like "thousand megabyte" for
"gigabyte" reveal that was in fact written in 1980, when just about
all the technology in it was totally, well... science fiction.

rst


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