Posts Tagged 'Philosophy'

Books read in November and December

Injection Volume 1 (11/8) – The first trade paperback for Warren Ellis’ new series. It’s grim and weird and I’m excited to see where he takes it. The art is really good for the most part, though there were a couple sections that were hard for me to follow what was happening.

Elektrograd (11/18) – The latest short in Warren Ellis’ Summon Books series is a retro future noir story based in an experimental city inspired by real life experimental architecture. It reads like a graphic novel (and the afterword confirms that it was originally written with that in mind).

@liketocontinue (12/7) – Matt Webb’s robot poem was great fun to read. It comes in 36 Tweets and the only way to get the next one is to hit the like button. It’s got word play, experimentation with form, cleverness. Robots and emotions. Robot mediated poetry at it’s finest.

Speak (12/8) – Absolutely wonderful.  Looping, self referential at multiple levels, poignant and, at times, heartbreaking.  The most human take on advanced AI I’ve come across.

Virtually Human (12/14) – This is a book of philosophy. If you approach it expecting something more technical, as I did, you will be disappointed. It took me a couple of chapters to realign my expectations but once I did I was well rewarded. The main thrust of the book is this: conscious artificial intelligences are coming and with them a host of philosophical, legal and moral quandaries. She focuses primarily on a type of artificial consciousness she thinks will be most prevalent, which she terms “mindclones.” A mindclone is a cyber consciousness made from the digital exhaust of a biological one. Creating a mindclone, in her view, will not create a new person, but merely extend the consciousness of the biological original to a new substrate. She argues that they will be the same person and legally and culturally recognized as such.

Unfortunately she seems to have trouble coming down on what mindclones and other AIs will be able to consent to. While much of the philosophical and moral arguments are inclusive of these new consciousnesses in humanity, the more technical sections seem to waffle between treating them as consenting adults and as efficiency improving tools whose owners can tweak them at will.  Nevertheless I found many of the philosophical arguments intriguing, and it’s a pleasant surprise that someone is thinking these things already.

Suicide by Jaguar (12/17) – David Landsberger‘s first book of poetry is short and sweet. The overwhelming majority of my family’s American contingent is based in Miami, giving me just enough familiarity with the city to recognize it in these poems. Unsurprisingly my favorites were those for and about Chicago including the sweet summer capsule of Chicago Haiku 1 and Chicago Elegy, a bittersweet homage to urban wildlife.  All the poems are translated into Spanish which is appropriate for both Chicago and Miami.  One day I hope to speak Spanish well enough to comment on the quality of the translations, but for now I’ll just say it makes me happy that they’re there.

Submergence (12/26) – The language in this sparse and introspective novel is often lyrical, though the narrative meanders and is ultimately unsatisfying.  I found myself really enjoying certain passages of this book but never really understanding where it was going.  I’m not sure if those are issues with the book or the reader, but I have a hard time recommending it.

Books read in May and June

The Wisdom of Insecurity (5/6) – This was a surprisingly difficult read for so slim of a book. Very powerful though. I found the discourse on the difference between faith and belief very helpful in dealing with my own depression and anxiety. He spends a lot of time attempting to reconcile his views of the infinite with classical religious texts which wasn’t super interesting to me (although probably a large point of the book). I could have done without them but the concept of “us as all” is so difficult to wrap your head around that I won’t complain about the repetitions.

Drones (5/22) – This is the first book of Adam Rothstein’s that I’ve read. I’m a big fan of his writing (both short fiction and journalistic), so I had high expectations for this book. Unfortunately, I’m not really the target audience. If you have even a semi active interest in drones and are familiar with the basics of how historical narratives are written you may find yourself bored at times. There’s some really interesting history, and the chapter on the esthetics of the drone is great, but in between there’s a lot more History 101 than I was expecting.

I read this at the same time as Charlie Stross’s Accelerando and I highly recommend that pairing. The history in Drones reaches back as far as the industrial revolution and you start to get a sense of the acceleration of technological advances as you progress. Accelerando takes that acceleration and straps on rocket skis, giving you the sense that Drones is a sort of historical prequel.

Accelerando (5/28) – One of the problems with writing about the Singularity is that, by definition, the post-Singularity world is fundamentally a different one than ours. Stross handles this beautifully by sidestepping the issue and asking what happens to those left behind. What if you don’t want your consciousness used as a currency by sentient corporations?

I found the “exo cortex” construction a really interesting take on what the technology between here and full brain upload might look like. It got me thinking how something like that could be built right now. The closest thing we have right now are smartphones and the nascent AR/VR kit blooming off them. I’m thinking about products like Google Glass, Pebble and iWatch, and research into gestural and neural interfaces. One thing that really stood out for me is the stark difference between Manfred’s exocortex and today’s smartphones when it comes to ownership. Manfred’s exocortex is a part of his body. He owns it in much the same way you own your kidneys.  We don’t really own our smart devices the same way way.

Blindsight (6/3) – The aliens in this book really felt alien. Beautiful bizarre weirdness. The e-book formatting wasn’t very good so I’d recommend getting an actual book.

Cunning Plans (6/17) – Pop music and magic, technology and British hedge shaman, haunted machines and the state of science fiction. If any of that sounds appealing to you, this book is well worth your time and dollar.  This is the first of Warren Ellis’ new short e-books (he was trying to produce a new one each month but has an Unidentified Neurological Event and put that on hold) and a collection of his recent talks.  I’ve been eagerly awaiting this collection since I generally prefer reading transcripts over watching videos and can’t afford to actually go to all the conferences he speaks at.  I was not disappointed. I don’t totally get the economics behind this only costing 99 cents, but you should all go buy it before they wise up and raise the price.  Some of the talks share themes and subject matter (as Ellis readily admits) but it felt more like reinforcement than recycling.


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