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Go read this story

Ben (July 23rd, 2003, 12:11 am)

A starsail ship filled with software incarnations of posthuman teenagers on a short voyage to an alien artifact confronting alien lobster script kiddies (among other things). And it's all plausible.

"Router", by Charles Stross


cruise (July 25th, 2003, 5:47 pm)

Yeah, very cool.

Dense, in that the concepts and science behind it are presented with minimal explanation, but just enough to be able to follow. Novel, in the thought of converting the planetary masses into thinking nanomachines - I like the idea of the solar system becoming sentinent.

A lot of it feels "borrowed" though, using ideas from other sci-fi writers (even a [admittedly amusing] quote from the Matrix), but I don't really hold it against the dude.

Very nice find...this is the kind of stuff I wish I had the imagination to write... :/


Ben (July 26th, 2003, 5:56 am)

I particualarly like the discussion of when the technological singularity begins -- after all, it'll never seems like a singualrity when you're in it; it's defined by having been unpredictable, a hyperbolic departure from what came before. From the perspective of our 50,000-years-ago ancestors, all of modern civilization is effectively a singularity.

To quote:

"I will be all right," Donna declares. The waiter comes over. "Mine will be a bottle of schneideweisse," she says. And then, without breaking step, "Do you believe in the singularity?"

"Am I a singularitarian, do you mean?" asks Pierre, a fixed grin coming to his face.

"Oh, no, no, no!" Donna waves him down, grins broadly, nods at Su Ang: "I do not mean it like that! Attend: what I meant to ask was whether you in the concept of a singularity believe, and if so, where it is?"

"Is this intended for a public interview?" asks Ang.

"Well, I cannot into a simulation drag you off and expose you to an imitative reality excursion, can I?" Donna leans back as the bartender places a ceramic stein in front of her.

"Oh. Well." Ang glances warningly at Pierre and dispatches a very private memo to scroll across his vision: don’t play with her, this is serious. Boris is watching Ang with an expression of hopeless longing; Pierre tries to ignore it all, taking the journalist’s question seriously. "The singularity is a bit like that old-time American Christian rapture nonsense, isn’t it?" he says. "When we all go a-flying up to heaven, leaving our bodies behind?" He snorts, reaches into thin air and gratuitously violates causality by summoning a jug of ice-cold sangria into existence: "The rapture of the nerds. I’ll drink to that."

"But when did it take place?" asks Donna. "My audience, they will to know your opinion be needing."

"Four years ago, when we instantiated this ship," Pierre says promptly.

"Back in twenty-sixteen," says Ang. "When Amber’s father liberated the uploaded lobsters."

"Is not happening yet," contributes Boris. "Singularity implies infinite rate of change achieved momentarily. Future not amenable thereafter to prediction by pre-singularity beings, right? So has not happened."

"Au contraire: it happened on June sixth, nineteen sixty-nine, at eleven hundred hours, eastern seaboard time," Pierre counters. "That was when the first network control-protocol packets were sent from the data port of one IMP to another–the first ever internet connection. That’s the singularity. Since then we’ve all been living in a universe that is impossible to predict from events prior to that time."

"That’s rubbish," counters Boris. "Singularity is load of religious junk. Christian mystic rapture recycled for atheist nerds."

"Not so." Su Ang glances at him, hurt. "Here we are, sixty-something human minds. We’ve been migrated–while still awake–right out of our own heads using an amazing combination of nanotechnology and electron spin-resonance mapping, and we’re now running as software in an operating system designed to virtualize multiple physics models and provide a simulation of reality that doesn’t let us go mad from sensory deprivation! And this whole package is about the size of a fingertip, crammed into a starship the size of your grandmother’s old walkman, in orbit around a brown dwarf just over three light years from home, on its way to plug into a network router created by incredibly ancient alien species, and you can tell me that the idea of a fundamental change in the human condition is nonsense?"

"Mmph." Boris looks perplexed. "Would not put it that way. The singularity is nonsense, not uploading or–"

"Yah, right." Ang smiles at Boris and he wilts.

Donna nods enthusiastically, beaming at them. "Fascinating!" she enthuses. "Tell me, what are these lobsters you think are important?"

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