Saturday, May 17, 2014

Stone Canal

I just finished Ken Macleod's Stone Canal, and enjoyed its whimsey and grandiosity.

I think Macleod's political biases have led him to imagine, writing in the 20th century, a 21st century in which the most dangerous state threats to peace and freedom will be about 180 degrees from the reality of our current timeline.

Perhaps more problematic, his story is written with a very optimistic view of the near term potential for personality uploads and downloads, cloning, and nanotech. I don't think this will age well.

It reminds me of the Heinlein's optimistic view of rocket technology while writing in the mid 1950s. It seemed plausible, until you looked closer at the contemporary state of the art.

If, in my lifetime, we succeed in uploading a crude, low fidelity emulation of a human personality to a computer, that would be an amazing achievement.  It would be a very big deal. Imagine a rover on Mars with brain that wasn't a robot, that wasn't quite human, but that was pretty close.

A near future in which we can reliably upload or download a complete human personality seems much less probable. Uploading a crude approximation of a human personality seems more probable, and could have interesting implications.

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