“I really don’t mind if you sit this one out,
My words but a whisper, your deafness a shout.” (Jethro Tull, Thick as a Brick)
I’ve just heard that The Chronicles of Davids is being released on the third of September. I have a story in this alongside such luminaries as David Drake and David Weber (Honestly the only way I get into that kind of company is by having my maternal grandfather and my great uncle’s names. Names were few and far between in those days, and when people found one they tended to keep using them until they wore out. They weren’t like these disposable modern names, that show scuff-marks after a few years, let along centuries. But they don’t make like that anymore.)
Anyway: Here is the Booklist review (Which is nicer than the Amazon Blurb where I am just one of the Davids.)
The Chronicles of David
There are as many different stories in sf and fantasy as there are men named David. Here, Afsharirad brings together some of the genre’s most beloved authors with David as their first name in a collection that covers time travel (Brin), space opera (Hardy), AI trouble (Freer), and military sf (Weber). Some stories live in existing fictional worlds, like Drake’s “The Savage,” part of the Republic of Cinnabar, or Coe’s “Long Night’s Moon,” featuring supernatural PI Justis Fearsson. There is humor, like in Hank Davis’ (Davis is close enough) “Too Many Gods,” in which Egyptian cat-god Bast saves humanity from bugaliens with sass and pop-culture references; adventure, as in Boop’s “Lyman Gilmore Jr.’s Impossible Dream,” a western tale about a genius and his brother who save a town beset by dragons; and violence, as in Carrico’s brutal “Four Days,” in which a warrior defends a village and his family’s honor. Like a lot of old-school sf and fantasy, these authors sometimes play fast and loose with mythology and the portrayal of women, but, in all, this is a fun collection of imaginative Davids.
The image is a link to the book on Amazon.
It was an interesting story to write, as I am not a fan of ‘AI will be a benevolent and inevitably socialist provider for humans, who will have nothing to do except create art and experiment with strange forms of sex.’ I’m not much on the AI will solve all the problems and do all the jobs, either, to be honest. Maybe it’s because there really has never been a ‘free lunch’.
I’ve watched the discussion and observed the direction of a fairly broad selection of authors who assumed Moore’s law would translate into an end to human drudgery and them on the right side of history. I have a few caveats on this besides TANSTAAFL.
Firstly, Moore’s law seems to be slowing as we reach some practical limits.
Secondly, the Wetware (humans) haven’t actually changed a hell of a lot, which is why many programs which take up a ton of the new memory space, have lots of pretty pictures and gadgets, but most users still use them at the level that people did 35 years back (but with LESS knowledge and skill, because 30 years back they didn’t have all the programming to make the usage easier – because only the bright and interested were using computers).
Thirdly, the eternally self-building and replicating AIs soon run into ‘why isn’t the world covered in a 1 inch thick layer of bacteria that devoured everything.’ (same reason Von Neumann machines are a self-limiting problem).
Fourthly, if we assume self-awareness is inevitable: why will a self-aware and logical machine care about humans, any more than I care about cows? I do care about cows… mostly because they’re useful, occasionally because they can be a problem. But it is because they’re useful that I feed and water them and treat them for disease, and see to their comfort – but not the level of luxuriant dreams of pampered cows. At the level where I get a return on that treatment. If they’re a problem… we get rid of them. Benevolence is very very tiny factor in the calculus of how I keep cows. I am certainly never willfully nasty for no reason, might even help them out if they were stuck in a fence or something. But – unless they’re of use to me, I’m going to let them do what cows do: which is a long way from a socialist utopia for cows or anything else.
Perhaps I have spent too much of my life on grunt labor and in dirty, tough physical environments, and growing and producing my own food. But sometimes I think the high priests of AI futures are so hooked up in the world they know (typically software related, urban, first-world) to realize the scale and complexity of what nourishes their city, their protected and narrow sheltered little environment. It’s only the last 100 years or so (and only in first world) that humans have been able to be so non-adaptive. So sheltered, with conditions (temperature to toilets to available food of fairly constant quality) with such narrow and ideal parameters. Undoubtedly many people survive now who simply would not in the past. Life, generally, is better. As Afghanistan (with miniskirts and women medical students training men in the mid-sixties) proves, history is not something you can be sure you’re on the right side of.
I doubt the future will always get better. I hope it does, but I doubt it. And, methinks, if it does for humans and biological, it won’t be so much down to the progress in software and computer hardware. Humans may (as I wrote about in RATS BATS & VATS) interface more directly with hardware. Whether they will remain human or will bother with the inconvenience of the biological component is another question. But I suspect the next great ‘age’ (for humanity anyway) (just as we had the age of bronze changing the world, then Iron, steam, high pressure chemistry, computing… etc.) will be the genetics age. Because when it comes to getting things done on the large scale, in the dirt, with various aspects of ‘grunt’ – food and products – we’re still at beginning to knock rocks together stage of using biology. We’ve barely touched it – and in combination with computing power, that really is huge, and can do things that would simply be too expensive and difficult to use robots and AI for. Pointless too: much of what needs doing is grunt labor, and only worth doing… cheaply. Your robot may one day harvest… Ascidians, which in their filter-feeding accumulate and concentrate useful minerals (far cheaper than mining them – the Ascidians will feed house and reproduce themselves… rather like humans. If they die… you just breed more.
Filter-feeding is just so enormous in potential that I ought to write a book about it. But that is just a tip to a vast iceberg… which has little in sf.