The Lifecycle of Software Objects

The Lifecycle of Software Objects

Book - 2010
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The story of two people and the artificial intelligences they helped create, following them for more than a decade as they deal with the upgrades and obsolescence that are inevitable in the world of software. At the same time, it's an examination of the difference between processing power and intelligence, and of what it means to have a real relationship with an artificial entity.
Publisher: Burton, MI : Subterranean Press, c2010
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9781596063174
1596063173
Characteristics: 150 p. : ill. ; 21 cm

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azuki
Nov 04, 2016

This quick and totally engrossing novella confronts readers with their own benchmarks for empathy, emotional connection, and sentience. While these may not be totally new questions in the genre (What is sentience? How meaningfully can 'natural' and 'artificial' consciousnesses interact?), The Lifecycle of Software Objects asks a lot more of us than that. To me, one of its most compelling questions is what obligation we have (on societal and personal levels) to care for things that are molded, domesticated, or engineered to provide for us. What SHOULD happen, as technology allows us to more easily create and discard things (organic or inorganic) to satisfy our desires for amusement, companionship, or other emotional sustenance?

Ted Chiang is part of a cool lineage of Pacific Northwest speculative fiction writers; I heartily recommend his short story collection, Stories of Your Life and Others.

t
thomd
Aug 18, 2013

The two main characters are hired by Blue Gamma (I was reminded of Blue Ant) to help create "digients" - digital entities built on an animal (and then robot) frame. Instead of having programmed behaviors, these learn, and a good portion of the novella explores the impact of that learning.

I was reminded of early AI programming, learning game strategy. It doesn't take much suspension of disbelief to see them developing personalities. Other neat factors include illustrations and Ted Chiang's general descriptions of the future "web".

The book ended quite abruptly, with the future of most characters left unresolved, and this brings the rating down a tad. (Aug 17-18)

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