Living Algorithms


“The three contemporary science fiction novels discussed here mirror the development of our stance towards artificial intelligence. In Gareth L. Powell’s The Recollection, which employs a polarised world-view reminiscent of Cold War politics, the AI is demonized to such an extent that speaking about it and speaking about the devil become indistinguishable. In Stone Adam Roberts depicts uprising nanobots as terrorists from a human perspective but as freedom fighters from that of the awakened AI. Finally, M. John Harrison’s take on the topic in his Empty Space trilogy is the most complex one, reminding us that we too are living, self-replicating, self-conscious code. Based on that, self-aware technology is simply another culture to interact with.”

I have a new article up in Infinite Earths: “Living Algorithms: The Move towards Anti-Anthropocentrism in Gareth L. Powell’s The Recollection, Adam Roberts’ Stone, and M. John Harrison’s Empty Space Trilogy”. The illustration above is “BioMech Eye” by Bruno (kirkh on deviantart).

Spaceship Names and Invasive Code

My addiction to list-making is flaring up again. (Which might or might not mean I’ll soon be writing more short stories.) Lately, I’ve come to realize that good band names often make good names for spaceships as well (e.g. Nada Surf, the Mars Volta). Since they tend to be multilingual compounds, and also (more often than not) quite interesting references, I blame M. John Harrison’s Empty Space trilogy. Besides, his “invasive code” is so well written that last night I dreamt that a white paste the consistency of baby food was coming out of my mouth, and a childless acquaintance suddenly had a daughter… It was pretty uncanny. That said, one of my favourite passages from Empty Space is “Renoko self-identified as human”. (More rights for entities traditionally identified as non-human! Down with anthropocentrism!)