I find science fiction fascinating. I’ve written in the past about why I read it. The main reason – it has an uncanny ability to foreshadow the evolution of technology. I’m regularly amazed by an author’s capability to imagine the future.
A case in point is a recurring theme in my science fiction reading – artificial intelligence (better known as AI). In my opinion, we are at the early stages of artificial intelligence. Narrow AI is already here and integrated into our daily routines, whether it be internet searches, directions, or predicting weather patterns. The question is if and when AI becomes more general, and eventually turns into superintelligence. Superintelligence is that point beyond the singularity where machines become smarter than humans at a runaway pace. Predictions abound regarding what happens at that point from catastrophic, apocalyptic outcomes to a wondrous society where all the problems of today have been solved.
In my latest science fiction read, Post-Human (the Omnibus Edition), David Simpson imagines a story arc for AI that starts in the not so distant future and evolves from there.
As noted in the intro, I read the Omnibus edition that contains the first four books in the Post-Human series (there are 6 in total). The first book starts in the not too distant future where the world has divided into two types – those in favor of AI, and those who are against the development of AI, also known as Purists. The development of AI divides along country lines with the US and its allies Purists, while China and other nations are in pursuit of a general, superintelligent AI. When the US catches wind that China may have succeeded in creating a powerful AI, US special forces are deployed to seek and destroy it. The plot gets thicker from there, and I don’t want to spoil it as Simpson does a great job getting right into the action and keeping you engaged with numerous plot twists.
Of the four books, I found the first and fourth books the best. I really liked how Simpson portrayed the development of the AI, and the action between those factions who saw the potential of a superintelligent AI and the Purists, who wanted to prevent it. He also did a great job in the first book mixing in quantum theory, particularly as it applies to the possibility of time travel. It was an interesting and stimulating mental exercise that sparks your imagination.
Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed in books 2 and 3. They’re good and well written, but the plot lines weren’t quite as believable and required a greater suspension of reality. However, the suspension is predicated on what we know today. It’s possible that in the future, space travel could be as straight forward and simple as Simpson portrays it.
It’s also worth noting that the first three books are written in chronological order with the fourth book more of a prequel. You could start by reading the fourth book first, and then circle back to the first three, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s a lot more intriguing if you read them in the order that they’re packaged.
Overall, I’m going to put the Omnibus Edition in my Fun Read category. However, I would consider the first and fourth books Must Reads. They are entertaining, engaging, and quite frankly, not that much of a stretch when you consider how fast AI technology is evolving. So if you aren’t willing to take the time to read all four books, which is a serious time commitment, I highly recommend the first and fourth books. You will not be disappointed.