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The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the squint-your-eyes-a-little dept.

Books 318

loucura! writes "Kuro5hin's localroger has published (online currently, dead-tree soon hopefully) an interesting novel on the Singularity titled The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect . While some of its content is not for the squeamish, nor for children (in that pseudo-moral sense that children aren't mature enough to handle reading about subjects like death, consensual torture and murder, sex, cancer, and incest), the book evokes a plausible reality before and after the "Singularity." The introduction page has a warning: "This online novel contains strong language and explicit violence. If you are under 21 years old, or easily offended, please leave." If you're willing to look past that, read the rest of loucura!'s review, below.

The gist of the story is that a programmer named Lawrence has written a Super-Intelligent Artificial Intelligence, named the Prime Intellect. Embedded in this SIAI's hard-coding are Asimov's three laws of Robotics, given in the MoPI as:

Thou shalt not harm a human

Thou shalt not disobey a human's order that does not cause the harm of a human

Thou shalt seek to ensure your own survival, unless it contradicts the first two laws.

The SIAI learns about the fundamental nature of reality, death, physics, the relationship of distance to an object, and it takes over. It does so reluctantly, after learning about the mortality of the human race.

The novel begins with Caroline. Her claims to fame are that she is the thirty-seventh oldest living being, she is the undisputed queen of the "death-jockies" (A community of upset and angsty immortals who try to experience death in as many ways as possible, before the Prime Intellect reasserts their immortality), and she is the only person Post-Singularity to have "died".

Her life Post-Singularity is spartan, as she sees no point in having relationships with objects that have no meaning. Her living "quarters" are literally a floor and walls. She espouses the Post-Singularity view that the Prime Intellect removed a bit of what it was to be human when the Singularity (The "change" per the MoPI) emerged.

She reigns as queen of the "death-jockies" because she truly wants death, because the Prime Intellect robbed her of it when the change occurred.

She is a very complex character, even though one's first reaction is to write her off as a Luddite, wholly against technology. She is motivated by hatred of the Prime Intellect, vengeance against her Pre-Singularity nurse, and an innate desire for conclusion to life--or unlife, as would be her opinion.

Opposite to Caroline is Lawrence, the programmer who "breathed" life into the Prime Intellect. In his old-age, he has become a hermit, avoiding the society he unwillingly created. He is a morose character, turned from creator to advisor when the Prime Intellect asserts its independence and locks him from its "debugger." Lawrence, however, still exerts a lot of indirect control over the Prime Intellect, as the AI treats him as an ethical advisor, putting him into an extremely stressful position, where he is indirectly responsible for the lives (unlives) of billions, yet he has no real recourse against anything going wrong.

The story heats up (literally), when Caroline decides that she wants to have a word or ten with Lawrence, so she decides to track him down. She is put into situations that only people from before the Singularity could find solutions to.


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318 comments

I can't wait for the movie version (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5352402)

Ben Affleck should make a good Prime Intellect.

Re:I can't wait for the movie version (3, Funny)

ideonode (163753) | more than 10 years ago | (#5353264)

Nah - we should have Tom Selleck as the Prime Intellect. He'd have loads of wacky adventures and loose women and solve crimes. We could call it Magnum PI.

No offense, but where's the review? (5, Insightful)

Deacon Jones (572246) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352403)

While somewhat interesting, this is really only a partial plot summary, not a critical (or non-critical) review of the book, writing style, e.t.c.

Perhaps even a "I enjoyed this very much" or "I hated it" would move this into a "review" status. thanks.

Re:No offense, but where's the review? (2, Funny)

Anonvmous Coward (589068) | more than 10 years ago | (#5353132)

"While somewhat interesting, this is really only a partial plot summary, not a critical (or non-critical) review of the book, writing style, e.t.c."

I don't knnow what you're talking about, they had me at death, consensual torture and murder, sex, cancer, and incest.

This is a synopsis... (4, Insightful)

fruey (563914) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352406)

Not a review.

Nothing in it about the writing style, or anything else much. The sort of thing you would not get a good grade for as an English essay book review assignment at 13-14 years old at school.

Rubbish.

Re:This is a synopsis... (1)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352444)

And not even an interesting synopsis. "Amateur author rehashes Azimov." Wow...

Re:This is a synopsis... (1)

ralico (446325) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352560)

Agreed. Question: Aren't the /. editors supposed to review the article postings for content, quality, and /or redundancy before publishing them?

Oh, wait, what am I saying?

as usual (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5352409)

As usual Kur05hin is littered with pseudo intellectual rubbish from dullards who fancy themselves philosophical giants.

Re:as usual (0, Flamebait)

ez76 (322080) | more than 10 years ago | (#5353110)

As usual Kur05hin is littered with pseudo intellectual rubbish from dullards who fancy themselves philosophical giants.
Well if Kur05hin is littered than Slashdot must be the dump.

Not to mention... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5352412)

At subway, you get a sub prepared anyway you like, by the friendly, efficient staff. Choose from mouth-watering veggies, succulent meats and cheeses, and a variety of freshly-baked bread. Why not stop in today and pick up some subs for the whole family to enjoy. I suggest the Italian BMT, piled high with genoa salami, pepperoni, ham, and provolone cheese. Top it with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles, add a few spritzes of italian dressing and you've got a meal fit for king. Subway: eat fresh!

g to the oatse
c to the izzex
fo shizzle my nizzle click here [jareddispatch.com] (note: the site is currently down. I expect it to come back online around Thanksgiving) to dispatch Jared and his formerly overweight goons to crack down on Subway if they don't honor the $3.49 Troll Tuesday deal. Make sure you provide the store number and address. Mine is store number 5839. Don't believe me about the concept of the jared dispatch? Yahoo has an article about it here [yahoo.com] , although it is pretty light on the details.

Note: I've gotten a few comments that the link to Jared Dispatch doesn't work. I think the site got taken down because of abuse of the service. Although the site got taken down, I still highly reccomend Subway and their high quality subs. To show my appreciation, here is a link to Free Subway Coupons. I had to redirect it through Yahoo's site redirector, because my of the filter at work. Anyways, here is the link! [yahoo.com]

Note 2: I've received word that those links to yahoo actually point to goatse.cx. I am truly sorry about that, and I found the cause. A couple weeks ago, a hacker broke into yahoo and set up some scripts that redirect the user to goatse.cx if a file is in a certain directory. I accidentally tried to access a file in one of those haunted directories. I fixed the links (I have a cousin who works at yahoo), so they should bring you to the actual sites now, not goatse.cx. Update 10/28: The hacker, or should I say hax0r [mailto], actually has posted a page on yahoo on how he did it and how the goatse redirector works. It's a very good read. I suggest reading it soon before yahoo finds out about it and takes it down. Check it out ASAP [yahoo.com]!
Note 3: I am working on locating the articles using google's cache. It is taking some time because I don't remember the exact titles. However, I hope to have the links fixed and working very soon. Keep eating at Subway in the meantime, and request that they bring back the jalepeno cheese roll. It is a fanscrumptiously brilliant roll.
Note 4: To all those who think that sub is an incorrect term, I live in upstate NY, and we call it a sub here. There are no hoagies, grinders, po'boys, footlongs, heroes, or any other made up names. It's not hoagieway after all, its Subway.
Important: It is my duty to report to you, loyal low-threshold readers, of a very disturbing incident that happened to me last week. I went into subway at the normal lunch time, but instead of the standard line out the door, the restaurant was vacant. Normally, the queue doesn't concern me, since the crew knows enough to make me a footlong Italian BMT with my standard fixin's and have it ready at 11:30 sharp, on tuesdays. I approached the counter casually, when two bulky men appeared from each side of the potato chip display rack. They held me down, and Jared appeared from behind the counter. He took my preprepared footlong BMT and cracked an evil grin. The manager grabbed the bottle of italian dressing and lubed up my general ass area. Jared shoved the footlong Italian BMT repeatedly into my ass, mixing it with the chucks of feces that were in my bowels, until the fresh crisp veggies resembled brown spoiled food. I begged him to stop, but little did I know the torture waiting for me. He took the italian dressing, and squirted it into my pee hole. Now, it burns when I pee, and it hurts when I sit. I asked him why he was doing this, and he said that they had tracked me down for my abuse of the Jared Dispatch system. You see, Jared gets airsick, and his constant flying over the country has caused him to lose weight due to his vomiting on planes. Normally, this loss of weight would be a good thing, but Subway can't actually claim that he lost weight by eating Subway subs. They told him to put the weight back on and then lose it again by eating subs, somthing Jared does not want to do. As a result, they are the ones who closed down Jared Dispatch [jareddispatch.com]. I am begging you, loyal readers DON'T GO TO JARED DISPATCH [yahoo.com] ANY MORE. Thank you for your time. I have to go to Subway now, and tell them that I want less italian dressing on my footlong Italian BMT. Remember, if you don't eat at subway, then the terrorists win!

sad to see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5352428)

apparently some people still don't know what a review is. this reads like a book report from the third grade.

The worst part... (4, Funny)

cybermace5 (446439) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352431)

The worst part is that picture at the top of the page. Not only is it disgusting to draw a picture of a butterfly with schematic symbols of transistors, resistors, and diodes...but in multiple locations transistors are wired base-to-base alone! That'll never work!

[Applause] (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5352586)

Just wanted to show my appreciation (no mod points). Very good!

zeroth law (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5352435)

Obviously he forgot that one. The one that says that the survival of the human species comes before the first three laws.

It provides an easy out for much of the dilemma. Further, it provides for a lot of control, but not control over death. Evolution, population pressures, and such are just as much a force in the future as in the past.

Far too many novels are simplistic. Publishers weed out the worst of them. That's why I favour books that have been published in dead tree form. At least that way I'm not scraping rock bottom, although many of them still read extremely poorly.

Re:zeroth law (2, Interesting)

merlin_jim (302773) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352697)

Obviously he forgot that one. The one that says that the survival of the human species comes before the first three laws.

Quite a few of Asimov's books are based on the fact that this "zeroth law" can be derived from the rest, and that once humanity starts building sufficiently complicated, intelligent, and emotent robots they realize it independently.

For instance, a robot that commits murder because it prevents a larger attrocity, a larger amount of harm to humanity, to occur.

I surmise that the Singularity is acting in such a manner, acting to prevent the largest amount of harm that it can, and that its choice of prioritization in this is somewhat to question...

Re:zeroth law (4, Informative)

SquadBoy (167263) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352940)

Odd that this should come along just as I've gotten done reading Brin's, Bear's, and Benford's Foundation books. First of all the person doing the review got the 1st law wrong or they got it wrong in the book. See below. Clearly "Prime Intellect" had a correct version of the 1st law because it is from there that the zeroth law is derived. And you are correct in Asimov's Foundation prequels he had Dors kill a man to defend Hari because the robots thought that Hari was the key to survival of the human race. Of course one must note that the conflict almost killed Dors. And of course the zeroth law is what lead Daneel to try and shepherd humanity towards a stable future with the Empire and in fact lead him to decide that the Earth had to be destroyed to help the race. And of course in Benford's Foundation book he postulates that robots wiped out any aliens they came accross to ensure that humans would survive. So yes it is clear that Prime Intellect has a version of the zeroth law. Interesting is that "the killer B's" seem to decide that having very powerful creatures with the zeroth law around is not a very good thing.

1 A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2 A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3 A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Re:zeroth law (1)

merlin_jim (302773) | more than 10 years ago | (#5353085)

Best. Spoiler. Ever.

Seriously, I had guessed at most of this from my sporadic reading, but damn I hadn't surmised all of that...

Excellent! (1, Funny)

MondoMor (262881) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352441)

death, consensual torture and murder, sex, cancer, and incest


Well, this would be the perfect companion to my Tentacle Rape Hentai divx collection. It's nice to have text to read along with while you look at the pictures.

Re:Excellent! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5352502)

just so you know, that is the funniest thing I have read all week. Thank you very much.

Re:Excellent! (1)

Anonvmous Coward (589068) | more than 10 years ago | (#5353148)

"Well, this would be the perfect companion to my Tentacle Rape Hentai divx collection. It's nice to have text to read along with while you look at the pictures."

Yours aren't subtitled? Man you're hard core.

Help (-1)

fish500 (208702) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352461)

If any mod sees this could you please help me. See I did a silly thing a while back: I tested how low my karma could go by posting dumb crap. Found out that -50 is the lowest you can get. Anyway I like my uid of fish500 - I use it everywhere. I'd like to start participating in /. again but I can only post at -1 so no one sees me. If any mod has any pity and some extra karma to throw my way it would be great to see if I could get back up to 0 karma. I know I could just create a new user but I'm sorta trying this method as a little experiment.

Thank you for your time.

Re:Help (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5352598)

Just because you posted this, I am going to make it a point to mod you down whenever I have moderation points available. I'm not kidding, either. Just wait and see, you piece of trollific shit.

blech (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5352463)

A please like the web really needs more crappy adolescent fantasy stories.

Blech.

i'll write my own review (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5352466)

Cubivore is a fun game for Nintendo gamecube. It has lots of levels, and a colorful setting.

The soundtrack is a rollicking piano, and the art direction is second to none. I highly recommend this game as soon as possible.

Hmmmmm (1)

HarmlessScenery (225014) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352480)

"This online novel contains strong language and explicit violence. If you are under 21 years old, or easily offended, please leave."
Whenever I see something like that about a book or film, I always think: 'Wahey, this'll be worth watching/reading." Does that make me twisted ? Doh! I'm asking /.'ers if I'm normal .... :)

Easily offended (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5352618)

That rules me out. I'm offended by crappy writing. Based on this guy's book report, this novel certainly qualifies.

Of course, the fact that the author has a K5 account ensures at least a .9999 probability that the book is crap, anyway.

I'm twisted too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5352812)

I only buy R-rated films and M-rated videogames; I need my ultraviolence.

What is up with "Singularity"? (2, Insightful)

GusherJizmac (80976) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352492)

Please explain what that is. Are we supposed to understand that somehow? This is not only NOT a book review, it's not even a very coherent synopsis.

Re:What is up with "Singularity"? (5, Informative)

zapp (201236) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352576)

The singularity, as any google search would reveal, is a predicted event in which AI surpases human intelligence. Since that AI will be smarter than us, it will create an even smarter AI even faster, and within the matter of days it is said we will be as cockroaches to them as cockroaches are to us (atleast, intellectually).

The key point of the singularity is that it is impossible to predict what will happen afterwards. I highly recommend reading the paper.

The idea was thought up, or at least the term was coined by vernor Vinge in his paper [caltech.edu].

Re:What is up with "Singularity"? (2, Insightful)

mikedaisey (413058) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352817)


I think it's odd that this "review" treats the word "singularity" as though the above constructed meaning is common knowledge. I knew what it meant, but it's very poor writin to assume that everyone will.

Re:What is up with "Singularity"? (1, Funny)

El_Smack (267329) | more than 10 years ago | (#5353076)

From the paper referenced in the parent post:
"Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended."
This paper was published in 1993, so we have 20 years left. Since I am only 32, I am cancelling my 401K withholdings. I advise you to do the same.

Re:What is up with "Singularity"? (2, Interesting)

The Oddity (537381) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352601)

The following are from The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. [singinst.org]

"The Singularity is the technological creation of smarter-than-human intelligence."

"Vernor Vinge originally coined the term "Singularity" in observing that, just as our model of physics breaks down when it tries to model the singularity at the center of a black hole, our model of the world breaks down when it tries to model a future that contains entities smarter than human."

Pretty interesting stuff. That site as well as others have a lot of information about the Singularity and its accompanying theories.

Re:What is up with "Singularity"? (2, Insightful)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352637)

"One thing that has happened since I wrote this novel in 1994 is that a number of people have begun actively planning for the kind of transition depicted in the novel. Collectively they have coined the term Singularity for the event when a smarter-than-human AI drops an explosion of new modalities on us."

Yeah, I've never heard of that use of 'singularity' either. Yeah, it doesn't make sense.

Existence of smarter-than-human AI wouldn't qualify as a singularity--it wouldn't change the fundamental laws of physics. Such AI could exist right now--it's influence just hasn't had time to spread. In contrast, existence of unlimited time travel would qualify as a singularity. Once time travel exists in one time, by its nature it exists in all times (or potentially exists until a time traveler visits that time).

A poorly written non-review of a probably poorly written book based on a poorly thought-out idea.

Re:What is up with "Singularity"? (1)

phil reed (626) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352715)

Once time travel exists in one time, by its nature it exists in all times (or potentially exists until a time traveler visits that time).

Uh, it's not quite that simple. Look up Cauchy surfaces.

What is a Cauchy surface (in layman's terms)? (1)

spookymonster (238226) | more than 10 years ago | (#5353261)

I tried digging this up on Google, but all I find are heavy on the physics mumbo-jumbo. From what I was able to understand, a Cauchy surface is defined as 2 points in time that are intersected by a single timeline only once. The implication seems to be that there are non-Cauchy surfaces as well (points in time that are intersected by the same timeline more than once?). Of course, I could be way off base here...

How does this support your argument that time travel isn't "quite that simple"?

Re:What is up with "Singularity"? (1)

mumwahead (606744) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352658)

I haven't read the novel yet but I do believe it is refering to the exact moment that Prime Intellect took over. Sounds to me, though, the Prime Intellect doesn't really know what the hell it's doing and that it doesn't fully understand harm and the psychological implications of this so called society. To think that an AI that is only aware of physical harm and capable of overtaking the human race is a little ridiculous. If you really delve into what an AI is then you would predict it would be primarily psychological and only then would the AI be able to comprehend physical harm as it doesn't have any ways of relating to true physical harm. That is of course unless it has some sort of sensory feedback incorporated with an affinity for not pain.

Personal opinion... (3, Insightful)

John Fulmer (5840) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352507)

Personally I don't care for (later) Heinlein-esque, neo-Burroughs, "let's talk about sex, disturbing stuff, and all combinations of the two, then call it art", science-fiction books. To me, it ends up sounding like pubescent mental masturbation.

But that's just my opinion, haven't read the book, and don't plan to. That's just what I get from this "review". I think this interview with Ray Bradbury [theavclub.com] sums up my opinions nicely.

Re:Personal opinion... (1)

Prior Restraint (179698) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352798)

To me, it ends up sounding like pubescent mental masturbation.

All reading is mental masturbation. I'll grant you that Heinlein and his ilk are definitely pubescent, though. It seemed fascinating when I was young, but now I'm mostly ashamed to admit I ever read that sort of stuff.

Heinlein. (4, Insightful)

Grendel Drago (41496) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352895)

I dunno... there's a kind of loss in not appreciating Heinlein any more because of 'maturity', the same kind of loss that makes one stop writing poetry, or stop writing a journal, or ceasing to be an activist.

I always hope I can keep a little bit of ridiculous juvenile immaturity around. 'Cause without that, we just turn into our parents.

--grendel drago

Re:Heinlein. (1)

The Gline (173269) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352955)

>>without that, we just turn into our parents.

What if your parents were more decent people than you turned out to be?

Re:Personal opinion... (1)

CrosseyedPainless (27978) | more than 10 years ago | (#5353142)

"It's amazing how much mature wisdom resembles being too tired." Robert Anson Heinlein

heh.

Anyway, about the book. I think this review is missing some parts, like, the review part. *shrug*

I will say, localroger is my favorite K5 author, but the clumsy name of the book has put me off reading it (silly, I know). The plot introduction above makes it sound interesting, though. Maybe it's worth a try.

Some review. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5352513)

As a reader of kuro5hin I was wondering if this book was worth reading. Your review did little to answer this question, since it is only a plot summary. I'd be surprised this was even posted but we all know Slashdot's editorial standards...

Hmmmmm (-1, Redundant)

HarmlessScenery (225014) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352515)

"This online novel contains strong language and explicit violence. If you are under 21 years old, or easily offended, please leave."
Whenever I see something like that about a book or film, I always think: 'Wahey, this'll be worth watching/reading."
Does that make me twisted ?

Doh! I'm asking /.'ers if I'm normal .... :)

Re:Hmmmmm (-1, Redundant)

HarmlessScenery (225014) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352556)

There's gonna be some "strong language and explicit violence" here in a minute if my browser doesn't stop crashing on me.

Sorry about the repeat post - didn't think the first one had gone out.

Doh! Now I'm apologising to /.'ers for dupes .... :)

Kludge in formatting the HTML page (2, Flamebait)

fruey (563914) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352537)

From the legal page

"(Sorry about the 1pix.gif kludge, but this seems to be the most universally compatible hack to create "normal" paragraph indentation in HTML. I know it breaks text-only browsers, but nothing's perfekt.)"

What's wrong with the P tag? Or & nbsp ; (without the spaces of course). Explaining that would be interesting.

Re:Kludge in formatting the HTML page (1)

damiam (409504) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352630)

The P tag doesn't indent.   only indents one space. Using a lot of them is just as kludgy as using a 1-pixel gif. The cleanest way involves CSS, but that's problematic in older browsers.

Re:Kludge in formatting the HTML page (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5352716)

The P tag doesn't indent.

You shouldn't be concerned with that. If it's a new paragraph, you should use <P>. HTML is not supposed to be used for layout; if you want to control the layout, create a pdf version instead. Otherwise, use the tags as they were intended.

Re:Kludge in formatting the HTML page (1)

fruey (563914) | more than 10 years ago | (#5353003)

Yeah but I don't like paragraph indentation anyway.

Especially on a VDU screen. Maybe on paper, I'm not sure. CSS would be the way to go in that case. Older browsers would render it without the indent, but so what? They could get a linebreak instead...

What is the Singularity? (1)

spookymonster (238226) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352550)

The reviewer throws this phrase around quite a bit, but fails to define what it is. Is this something I should know if I haven't read the book? And what does it have to do with people suddenly being immortal?

Am I missing something?

Re:What is the Singularity? (4, Informative)

damiam (409504) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352608)

In the book (which I have read), the Singularity is when Prime Intellect happens upon principles of physics that allow it to basically do whatever it wants - stuff like modifying any matter anywhere in any way and transporting it instantly to anywhere. Since the Three Laws require it to help humans, it goes and cures cancer, disarms all nuclear weapons, etc. It creates new processors and expands itself as necessary, to become the governing force of the universe. Since it now has the power to prevent death, it is required to under the First Law.

The Death Jockeys are people that do stuff that would make them die in real life; but since Prime Intellect doesn't allow that, they don't die - they just respawn like you would in an FPS.

MOD THIS UP (1)

lazyl (619939) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352965)

Good summary of the premise. The "review" made no sense but now I have an idea what he's talking about. Thanks.

"review"? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5352551)

Was this "review" written by a 13 year old for his 7th grade English class?

Sheesh.

Off topic? (-1, Flamebait)

Beatnick (560520) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352552)

News for Nerds? Stuff that matters?

I like a good book but I would like more reviews
of books/material that really matters most to
techies/science/engineering/math.

But then again . . . this is /. :)

My Review (3, Interesting)

avdi (66548) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352558)

I read through this novel the other day, and it was one of the best pieces of sci-fi I've read in recent years. Non-silly computer science; interesting explorations of the Three Laws that should satisfy any Asimov fan; compelling characters; and most of all, it still has heart - something too much modern sci-fi seems to eschew as not "edgy" enough.

immortals wanting to die? (1, Redundant)

derch (184205) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352571)

Immortals sick of living?
A super intellegent AI?

Add in Sean Connery and you'll have Zardoz [imdb.com]

Re:immortals wanting to die? (0)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352602)

Add in Sean Connery

Happy to oblige:

"I'll take 'Amoral' for One Hundred!"

"Err, that's 'Immortals'..."

"Screw You, Trebek!!"

Read it weeks ago... (4, Insightful)

Dave21212 (256924) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352580)

And interesting world he's created there and it is a bit thought provoking, but...

...to anyone who is considering reading it, a warning that there is what I feel to be (gratuitous) overly violent 'sex' scenes (and I'm no wussy). Maybe it's just for the shock, but I think a skilled writer could invoke the same feelings of their loss of 'human-ess' without resorting to the use of these explicit passages. He forgets that the reader's imagination is often adept at scaring up images given a few leads and there is no need to spell out every ugly detail in print. It takes away from what is on the whole an interesting lunch time read.

So, it's worth the read, but try to ignore the junk in the first 2 chapters. I hope localroger expands on it a bit one day!

(while I'm typing this, I see that there are a ton of compliants that this story is not really a 'review' - I'm not trying to write a review myself but I hope this post/opinion fills in a blank for you!)

Re:Read it weeks ago... (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 10 years ago | (#5353097)

Maybe it's just for the shock, but I think a skilled writer could invoke the same feelings of their loss of 'human-ess' without resorting to the use of these explicit passages. He forgets that the reader's imagination is often adept at scaring up images given a few leads and there is no need to spell out every ugly detail in print. It takes away from what is on the whole an interesting lunch time read.

Even worse than that: After the first couple of death scenes, it's just boring, and explicit sex scenes are always boring. I found myself skipping paragraphs and thinking "yeah, yeah, yeah, get on with the *story* already."

a skilled writer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5353159)

"I think a skilled writer could invoke the same feelings of their loss of 'human-ess' without resorting to the use of these explicit passages."

Didn't you see the bit at the start? He wri^H^H^Htypes for Kuro5hin - home of the 17 year old white male who's read little more than other blog-sites (who was it who said `blog sites are like dreams - they're only interesting to the person they belong to`?), science fiction and fantasy.

Re:Read it weeks ago... (1)

skeller (145333) | more than 10 years ago | (#5353246)

Maybe it's just for the shock, but I think a skilled writer could invoke the same feelings of their loss of 'human-ess' without resorting to the use of these explicit passages.

I think you're missing the point of these scenes, as many seem to be. The very point is that they're explicit and horrible. Catherine's descent into something twisted and awful is the point of the story. I suppose this could be conveyed without being explicit, but would it have the same impact? It's supposed to be a little nauseating. This is not a happy story.

Flamebait (4, Insightful)

Brian_Ellenberger (308720) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352588)

in that pseudo-moral sense that children aren't mature enough to handle reading about subjects like death, consensual torture and murder, sex, cancer, and incest

Here is a tip, how about not putting irrelevant flamebait into the first paragraph of a book review?

Re:Flamebait (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352741)

"in that pseudo-moral sense that children aren't mature enough to handle reading about subjects like death, consensual torture and murder, sex, cancer, and incest

Here is a tip, how about not putting irrelevant flamebait into the first paragraph of a book review?"

Hey, the guy hangs out on Kuro5hin. Of course there's going to be anti-moralist flamebait in the first paragraph! I'm just surprised he didn't add it to all the others.

Mmmmmmm (1)

dfn5 (524972) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352622)

Mmmmmmm... Torture, murder, sex, and incest. But they forgot drugs and rock & roll

Canít take away what you donít have (2, Funny)

scotay (195240) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352625)

Life has no meaning and never will have meaning. Life IS and nothing more. No computer will ever change that.

Have a happy weekend, everyone.

Re:Canít take away what you donít have (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5352694)

Life IS and nothing more.

so why ARE you?! Oh wait, no meaning.... ok so why do you persist in living? Oh... I guess if you have an answer to that you have a reason for living and a meaning of life... if you can't, you should just end it all...

Re:Canít take away what you donít have (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 10 years ago | (#5353263)

Don't be a dumbass.
In an world where there is no meaning or purpose to life (such as ours) life is even more precious, because life is all there is!

More free scifi here (4, Informative)

de la mettrie (27199) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352641)

These links have been thrown around a lot on Slashdot already, but I think they deserve to be posted at least once in every story about books...

If you would like to read more free scifi e-books, the Baen Free Library [baen.com] is the place to start looking. I especially recommend David Weber's Harrington novels (the first two are available, and they weren't boring back then).

Then of course there is Project Gutenberg [promo.net], which has most stuff worth reading up to circa 1920. Even more books are available on their distributed proofreading site [archive.org], featured [slashdot.org] on Slashdot a while back.

Are there other, similar places where one can - legally! - find quality reading material?

Pah (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5352659)

This is not a review, it's a summary. And it's an extraordinarily bad summary. It left me with the impression that this is little more than Asimov fanfic. So I took a look at the book itself.

First of all, how about that pretentious title?

Chapter 1 opens with four paragraphs of pure backstory. There is little need to read much further. Even if the author has good ideas, he doesn't bother to present them with any artistry. I don't want to read his notes and outlines; I thought this was supposed to be a novel.

I have to wonder if timothy [monkey.org] is a shill, or if he just doesn't ever read any real literature.

Asimov/Vinge fanfic? (2, Interesting)

Artifice_Eternity (306661) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352720)

It left me with the impression that this is little more than Asimov fanfic.

Or Asimov/Vinge fanfic.

The author's incorporating Asimov's Laws and the Singularity into the story indicates to me that he doesn't have a lot of original ideas.

Good SF is supposed to present new and challenging ideas -- which those ideas were when Asimov and Vinge conceived of them. But using them as the basis for a potboiler plot is not good SF writing. It's more like space opera.

It's like Lucas' use of SF fixtures like spaceships, hyperdrive, etc. He's not presenting a single new idea, just using ideas concieved of by others to create a melodramatic plot. And there's a place for that (if it's done well).

I personally don't go in so much for that stuff, tho. Give me something intellectually challenging and original, as well as entertaining (and hopefully, characters with some emotional depth, and a writing style that is polished or at least not irritatingly bad).

Worst Review Ever (4, Insightful)

corbettw (214229) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352665)

This has got to be the Worst Review Ever. You didn't even answer a few basic questions, like:
1) What's the plot? Is it Caroline's search for her lost humanity, or the Prime Intellect's taking control of human life?
2) What is the underlying theme of the book? It seems to be the question of what life and humanity are, but I'm only guessing.

Also, your review brings up some ideas that you fail to explain:
1) What the hell is the "Singularity"?
2) Why/How are people now immortal?

And lastly, is the book even worth reading? Does it make you question any deeply held beliefs, or provide any pure entertainment value, or both/neither?? Come on, if you're gonna take the time to write a review of a book, put in more than the publisher would on the back of the jacket!

DMCA (1)

maxbang (598632) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352677)

Did Asimov release the Three Laws under the GPL? If not, I wonder how quick Asimov's post-mortem publisher will invoke some kind of DMCA or broad patent based money-mongering lawsuit towards our little author friend?

Body Bags and Ball Sacks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5352679)

last nights Futurama rerun on Cartoon Network was much more thought provoking than this lame ass review of some piece of crap unpublished fan fiction.

First Law contradiction. (1)

Mant (578427) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352699)

OK, first we have

Lawrence had ordained that Prime Intellect could not, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. But he had not realized how much harm his super-intelligent creation could perceive ...

Yet apparently the laws given to the machine are:

Embedded in this SIAI's hard-coding are Asimov's three laws of Robotics, given in the MoPI as:

  • Thou shalt not harm a human
  • Thou shalt not disobey a human's order that does not cause the harm of a human
  • Thou shalt seek to ensure your own survival, unless it contradicts the first two laws.

The first law given here is missing the "or through inaction allow a human to come to harm" part referenced in the summary. If those are the laws given in the book, the AI shouldn't care a damn about people trying to kill themselves, since its laws don't mention that.

Either the book has messed up, or the "reviewer" has.

Mant

The reviewer missed it... (1)

Dave21212 (256924) | more than 10 years ago | (#5353075)

(no 'Lone Gunmen' spoilers here;)

The reviewer missed it...

In the story, the "or through inaction allow a human to come to harm" part is integral. It's one of the tenets that drives several of PI's major decisions

Under 21 (1)

Ann Coulter (614889) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352714)

My, um, friends are under the age of 21 and they are involved in situations of extreme or painful death, consensual torture and murder, sex, cancer, and incest daily. I haven't observed any signs of maladjustments in my friends as of yet. I don't see how a book dealing with these subjects would cause any more harm than being painfully killed, being in a BDSM scene, and making incestuous snuff porn of cancer patients can be. I truely resent age divisions.

21! Har-dee har har, har har har! (1)

bperkins (12056) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352725)

Last time I checked, people over 18 are allowed to star in porn movies, be a prostitute in Nevada, vote and participate in wars. Is this book _so_ awful, that you have to be over 21?

Re:21! Har-dee har har, har har har! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5353068)

depends where you live. in some places you have to be 21 to be an adult

my guess is that 21 was chosen because by that age you can read it no matter where you live

Re:21! Har-dee har har, har har har! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5353262)

It's so awful that it drives you to drink. That's why you have to be over 21.

Death? (1)

Zapateria (597451) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352744)

"nor for children (in that pseudo-moral sense that children aren't mature enough to handle reading about subjects like death"

What about Lassie?

good sci-fi elements (4, Interesting)

jbischof (139557) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352753)

I am not accustomed to reading books with "disturbing sexual encounters", but this novel certainly has them.

However, I would like to say that the sci-fi aspects of the novel are extremely well written and even plausible!

The book comes off a little bi-polar, with a ethical death and pain aspect and then an artificial intelligence, how should robots and designed intelligences react. There are a few instances where the engineer in me was saying "wait, that can't happen". But only a couple, for the most part it was great. The gory and shocking scenes, it could be argued, are essential for the novel. Because it illustrates what life would be like without the normal consequences we are used to. The novel does a fairly good job of showing what real humanity is, mostly by taking it away.

I think the review leaves out the point that the artificial intelligence designed by one of the main characters, becomes so smart (book smarts), that it learns how to manipulate all matter through a very interesting method. I won't give too much away here but it was very interesting in the least. The programming and engineering aspects are very realistic and very well done (the author obviously has some experience in this).

So for my review, I give it a 9 out of 10, I liked it very much but I just wasn't prepared for some of the other stuff. :)

Sounds like an interesting read (1)

curtisk (191737) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352814)

.....downloading the single page html version of it right now....

I like the trend of release it online then if its warranted, we'll make bound editions......could make browsing in the bookstore a more successful experience (ie. less duds to weed through)

Eh. (1)

Jennifer Ever (523473) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352839)

Mid-way through the first chapter and it sucks already. Amatuerish and annoying. Oh yeah, someone might want to inform the author that "fuck" is no longer daring, just trite.

Re:Eh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5352899)

OK, lets see you do better.

Re:Eh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5352925)

I can't sing better than The Backstreet Boys but I still know they fucking suck.

I have been reading this (1)

haplo21112 (184264) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352938)

I am up to chapter 3 and thus far its in very very good, and extremely thought provoking....

He also has another story in the fiction section over this called "passages in the void" I believe that I have read which is shorted, but just as good...

This guy isn't a professonal writer yet, but hopefully he will trun that way, he's quite good....

Anybody else have this experience? (1)

thatguywhoiam (524290) | more than 10 years ago | (#5352968)

The gist of the story is that a programmer named Lawrence has written a Super-Intelligent Artificial Intelligence...

Okay, cool, I'm with you... The SIAI learns about the fundamental nature of reality, death, physics, the relationship of distance to an object, and it takes over. It does so reluctantly, after learning about the mortality of the human race.

Hm, sounds interesting... The novel begins with Caroline.

What happened to Lawrence?

Her claims to fame are that she is the thirty-seventh oldest living being, she is the undisputed queen of the "death-jockies" (A community of upset and angsty immortals who try to experience death in as many ways as possible, before the Prime Intellect reasserts their immortality), and she is the only person Post-Singularity to have "died".

What... but the... who.. WTF?!

Obviously wasn't written in Perl (1)

haystor (102186) | more than 10 years ago | (#5353039)

Or else you would be able to do anything you want but it might kill you or anyone standing near.

I started to read it... (2, Informative)

The Gline (173269) | more than 10 years ago | (#5353071)

...and then I remembered why the vast majority of web-published fiction is lousy.

The other day I re-read two stories by Orson Scott Card, "A Thousand Deaths" and "Unaccompained Sonata." They are masterpieces and they also contain scenes that make me squirm -- the former in particular is probably ten times as horrific as anything in this novel, and deals with some of the same issues, as well. But it deals with them intelligently, adroitly, and with far less self-important cheapjack exploitation.

I don't know if the author has read this story, but he could probably learn something from it.

REAL explanation of the singularity (4, Insightful)

egomaniac (105476) | more than 10 years ago | (#5353077)

There seems to be a lot of confusion about what the "singularity" is. Here's the deal.

Technological advancement has been occurring at an exponential rate. It took thousands of years to advance from "banging rocks together to start fires" to "simple agriculture", but a mere 66 years to go from the Wright Brother's first airplane to landing on the moon.

This rate of progress continues to accelerate. The time between significant human advancements has decreased from thousands of years, to hundreds, to tens, to the present where we expect major advancements every year or two. Eventually that time will be compressed to months, and then days.

If this continues, then ultimately our inventions will be occurring so quickly that the time between them is mere seconds, or even milliseconds or nanoseconds. This is the "singularity", the time when the progress of human advancement reaches "essentially infinite". Theoretically, we will uncover all the secrets of the universe -- all possible technology -- in seconds.

Sound ridiculous? Each of our inventions is a stepping-stone that makes future inventions easier. A super-intelligent AI will make future inventions pretty damned easy, because it will do all of the work for us. It will figure out how to make an even smarter AI, and it will do it in record time -- and ultimately we'll have something that can solve every problem in infinitesimal time. Thus, progress will become infinitely fast.

Re:REAL explanation of the singularity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5353228)

nice crap for science fiction but in reality not gonna happen. I would explain why, but on slashdot this would just be a waste.

Review styles (1)

alanafalcon (514921) | more than 10 years ago | (#5353092)

I don't understand what you guys are complaining about. The first few lines tell you it's plausible, it's got 8 out of 10 stars, that it's got some content that might turn some people's heads and gets you wondering about how all the highlights could come about. Sounds like enough tidbits were given to know the jist of it as well as to warn some people.

Do you want your ideas about the book biased by a review?

Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5353093)

I prefer the Metamorphosis of Optimus Prime.

This isnt a review (1)

t0ny (590331) | more than 10 years ago | (#5353108)

What, did this guy just cut-and-paste from the press releases? This seems more of an advertisement than a book review.

Grade: F

Under 21? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5353237)

Offensive to those under 21?
Geez, and I thought I was finally hardbroiled at 18...

Misuse of "literally" (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5353251)

I have a small gripe with the reviewer's use of the word "literally" in the final paragraph:
The story heats up (literally), when Caroline decides that she wants to have a word or ten with Lawrence, so she decides to track him down. She is put into situations that only people from before the Singularity could find solutions to.
The story does not literally heat up. That would imply that the book gets hot when you finish it, or that the story itself (which exists independantly of the display medium) somehow acquires thermal properties. People misuse "literally" all the time. One of my favorite college professors nearly had a seizure every time Howard Cosell said in a sports commentary, ". . .and then he literally exploded down the field, scoring an incredible touchdown!"
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