book review: diaspora

A friend and I briefly engaged in a dialogue a while back about the difference between those who believe in the singularity and transhumanists. While I think my distinction was lacking (since basically I see singularitarians as millenial/religious transhumanists) Greg Egan’s Diaspora is the picture of what I want transhumanism to be. See, I’m not about the superpowers so much, I’m about not worrying about these arbitrary biological restraints, which I’m sure amount to the same thing.

Diaspora is so beautiful in what it does with these decreasingly biological entities that may be our descendents though. All I really want is to be one of them. The first chapter of the book is about the creation of an orphan AI, one which goes through the stages of development until it is finally self-aware. This character, Yatima (which, incidentally goes in the file of “if I ever have children some day here are the geeky names I may fight tooth and nail for”), then deals with an apocalyptic (to biological life) event on Earth and then engages in exploration through physical and non-physical methods of the universe and the different layers within and around it, trying to make sense of life’s place. (Dave, seriously, read this book.)

By the end I was so caught up in the loneliness and wonder of everything that had happened. You know how in some books you know in the very first bit what you’re in for. This book shifts with each chapter. Timescales skew, universes change, yet some characters stick with tradition, immortal though they may be. Fuck, this thing was so good. It pains me that McNally doesn’t have copies of everything Greg Egan has ever written. I mean, I couldn’t read a regular SF book after this. Everything would have felt so four dimensional. (Seriously Dave, let me know when you’ve read this book. It’s in the library. I just returned it.)

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