It’s the future you see
Book week this week. Given the amount of airtime being given to virtual worlds and what happens as the world goes increasingly digital, I thought it might be fun to have a look at the best books on this very topic.
Read them and make your own mind up (maybe not the last one though).
The beauty of this selection is they have stood the test of time. They are making predictions about technology and the future but in some cases are nearly 40 years old (on average the books are 28 years old). The future they describe is now and it is surprisingly accurate.
Ready Player One
Made famous by the terrible film made in its name. The book is great though. In essence, a billionaire sets up a computer game with a very large prize inside it, winner takes all. There is a contest between large corporations and individuals to win the prize.
They key to this book is that the virtual world is having an impact on the real world and vice versa. Actions taken there are playing back in reality. What you do online matters.
Published in 2012, a good read and the pick of the bunch from a readability perspective.
The original cyberpunk novel from 1984. A washed-up hacker is hired for a final job against an artificial intelligence.
Full disclosure here. I struggled to begin with, indeed I had to use some notes to work out what was going on. With the help of the notes, it was good.
The book inspired the film The Matrix, and you can see why. Some good parallels with today too, all powerful tech overlords and artificial intelligence running the world. A bit chilling this one.
Written in 1992. America has collapsed due to hyperinflation; the quadrillion dollar note is now the smallest denomination. Los Angeles is no longer part of the United States as the Federal Government has ceded power to private organisation and entrepreneurs.
The Snowcrash itself is both a digital and a physical virus used to control people, which given where we are, is an interesting idea.
It might sound ominous but it is actually very funny and half tongue-in-cheek.
The author was the first to coin the phrase “The Metaverse” which we hear so much about today. If you really want to know what he meant, here’s your chance.
Now 30 years’ old and almost impossible to get your hands on (easy on Kindle though).
The great thing is the author’s extreme scepticism about virtual reality. Indeed, he really mocks the idea because back in 1992 the graphics were bad and computing power was nowhere near where it needed to be.
Jump forward three decades, beyond the author’s predictions, and we still do not have a computer that passes the Turing Test. This remains the ultimate test for artificial intelligence. Can a human being tell you are a computer while having a conversation with you? It must be said it doesn’t feel like we are close to passing this test even today. Siri, Alexa and co all sound like pretty ordinary computers from the 1980s to me.
If you are exhausted from the other books, this will set you straight. Its essence being: don’t worry, your brain is more powerful than any computer will likely ever be. Don’t take too much comfort from that though, because it is likely profoundly wrong.
The Physics of Immortality
Yes, it does indeed say “Modern Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead”.
Mr Tipler is a physicist at the Tulane University in the USA. He is somewhat controversial but nonetheless, he achieves full marks here for the sheer mind-blowing ambition of his ideas. Nothing is left in the tank and good luck understanding 20% of it. Indeed, the appendix (which is half the book), requires three separate PhDs according to the author.
In summary, computing power will continue to grow. We will build replicating machines, which replicate themselves and gather energy taking us to the edge of the universe. Once there, and just prior to the collapse of the universe, computing power will become infinite (by definition). Consequently, we will have a Universal Turing Machine which will be able to simulate all possible environments that have ever existed, and it will do so forever. You and your memories will be revived, and you will live for ever, inside the machine (but you won’t know that, just like you don’t know it now).
After reading them, I shall be interested to know if you really think your favourite fiat currency is going where we’re going.
Euro-Trash returns next week.