Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Have you ever read The Diamond Age?

You really should. I just Wiki’d it, and apparently it was shortlisted for a Nebula award and other really cool things. According to Wiki (and Wiki would never lie to us, right?): The protagonist in the story is Nell, a thete (or person without a tribe; equivalent to the lowest working class) living in the Leased Territories, a lowland slum belt on the artificial, diamondoid island of New Chusan, located offshore from the mouth of the Yangtze River, northwest of Shanghai. At age 4, Nell receives a stolen copy of an interactive book, Young Lady's Illustrated Primer: aPropaedeutic Enchiridion in which is told the tale of Princess Nell and her various friends, kin, associates, &c., originally intended for an aristocrat's child in the Neo-Victorian New Atlantis phyle. The story follows Nell's development under the tutelage of the Primer, and to a lesser degree, the lives of Elizabeth and Fiona, girls who receive similar books. The Primer is intended to intellectually steer its reader toward a more interesting life, as defined by "Equity Lord" Alexander Chung-Sik Finkle-McGraw, and grow up to be an effective member of society. The Primer also reacts to its owners' environment and teaches them what they need to know to survive and grow.
The Diamond Age is characterized by two intersecting, almost equally developed story lines: Nell's education through her independent work with the Primer, and the social downfall of engineer and designer of the Primer, John Percival Hackworth, who has made an illegal copy of the Primer for his own young daughter, Fiona. His crime becomes known both to Lord Finkle-McGraw and to Dr. X, and each man attempts to exploit Hackworth to advance the opposing goals of their tribes. The text also includes fully narrated educational tales from the Primer that map Nell's individual experience (e.g. her four toy friends) onto archetypal folk tales stored in the primer's database. Although The Diamond Age explores the role of technology and personal relationships in child development, its deeper and darker themes also probe the relative values of cultures (which Stephenson explores in his other novels as well) and the shortcomings in communication between them.
I’m going to go a bit further into the book… I’d like to focus on the Primer. It was a book that was basically run by a woman who acted out all of the stories (spoken and movement) and who acted as a surrogate mother for this child. This is the part that really spoke to me. Of course, when I first read it, I had a child who was 4 years old, so maybe that is why I focused on that aspect a bit more. Overall, it’s an absolutely WONDERFUL example of cyberpunk (body modification, fantabulous buildings, etc etc) I highly recommend it. So, after all of that, you’re thinking this is a book review. NO!!! I don’t do book reviews!! Book reviews are boring. However I would suggest you read the following news article that I got from Slate.com:

Microsoft Introduces Milo, a Virtual Boy, to TED Global Conference "I want to introduce a new revolution in storytelling," veteran U.K. game designer Peter Molyneux told an audience at the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Global Conference in Oxford on Tuesday. During his short presentation, Molyneux demonstrated his latest creation: a virtual boy. Milo, designed to be used with Microsoft's Kinect, a new hands-free Xbox 360 controller, responds to a person's body movements, voice, and emotions. Using a series of cameras, microphones, and sensors, Kinect interprets its user's intentions. "We're changing the mind of Milo constantly," Molyneux told the crowd. "No two people's Milos can be the same —you are actually sculpting a human being. Some of the things you are doing will change the course of his life." Created using Microsoft technology and artificial intelligence developed by Molyneux's Lionhead studios, Milo was designed after Molyneux decided he wanted to create something "that seemed alive, that would look me in the eyes, and feel real," according to the BBC Currently, Microsoft has no plans to release Milo, but Molyneux hinted that it could have commercial appeal. "His mind is based in the cloud," he said. "As millions of people use it, Milo will get smarter."

I then sent the article to my darling husband, b/c Milo TOTALLY sounds like the Primer!!

Darling Husband:
You know... The disturbing thing about this is that soon a computer program will have had more interaction with individual people than the sum total of people on the planet. The possible spiritual, cognitive, and social implications is mind-boggling. I mean... What if the construct doesn't like you?

Wow... that has just led me down the path of even further social insecurity... (Good job, Husband!) That had never even occurred to me... what if my iPhone doesn't like me, and that's why I'm not getting (or getting notified of) my texts in a timely manner...
This adds my resistentialism to my social anxiety... so I'm now afraid that inanimate objects not only may be out to get me and hate me, but they may just not like me... I'm not sure which is worse, b/c at least hate is a strong emotion... which is worse? To have someone/thing have a strong negative emotion about you, or just a passing distaste?!?

Darling Husband:
Well. The complexity of the programming of an iPhone is significantly less than what they are talking about. You could think that way, or acknowledge that you are deifying an overly hyped calculator. If you do choose to look at it that way... Maybe offer it a cookie?

Mmmm... primitive idol worship, or just realize that sometimes things break and there's nothing you can do about it thus moving towards a more nihilistic belief system... I'll go w/ the cookies.
What would an iPhone want? Well... so far my credit card number seems to satisfy it. I give it my CC#, and it gives me new entertainments. (Yeah... how is this not a potential religion?)