Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang

The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang

This novel is about artificial intelligence.  The author likes the idea of the Turing test and is describing the process of raising artificial intelligences in this novel.  The story touches on many different issues in artificial intelligence; raising artificial beings, designing different thinking patterns than our own, the rights of intelligent beings, artificial worlds, and the emotional life of machines are some of the topics. 

Some of the content is mature in nature. The author writes about sex with machines and intentional harm to robotic entities.  It is done in a non-sensationalistic way.

The story is very humanistic. The robots are not super intelligent.  They start as humanities pets, toys, and hobbies.  Later as the story develops some take on the role of customer service and simple assembly.

The setting is the homes and labs of the researchers as well as artificial online worlds. The people in the story are working in startups and research institutions.

The novel is illustrated by Christian Pearce and Jacob MacMurray.  These are a few images from Christian Pearce's website:

The story is very character driven.  It is a thoughtful novel, not an action novel.  I like that the main human character, Ana joins a startup after her job as an animal raiser at a zoo.  This makes the story intriguing.

If you want a character driven story about artificial intelligence this novel is worth reading.  The feeling of the settings seems very real to me, more so than most science fiction novels I have read. The world is well built.  This is near future science fiction done right.

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