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Ser Scot A Ellison

Fall, or Dodge in Hell- Neal Stephenson (spoilers)

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So, I’m about halfway through this tome.  Generally, I really enjoy Neal Stephenson.  He prompted 9 years running of non-fiction reading with Anathem.  I thought the first two-thirds of Seveneves were really interesting.  I even enjoyed The Rise and Fall of DODO which he only co-wrote.  

This one is more, and less, cerebral than some of his other works.  It is doing an admirable job of providing a spec-fic story focusing on the “Mind-Body problem”.  But I’m just not down with this story.

I think it is because I hate the idea that if a computer can simulate my personality it is somehow actually “me”.  I just don’t believe that.  

This book buys into that notion really hard. I’m struggling to keep reading but the gushing over the ethics of shutting down a computer simulation based on mapped brains just does not make me care about the “uploaded” characters.

Anyone else reading this one?

 

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Yeah, as I've noted previously I find his earlier stuff eminently re-readable and diverting but as he's seemingly earned the right to write whatever books he wanted, he's unfortunately turned out inferior work. I sat out the last one and this one is pretty unappealing too. Which is a shame because I just re-read the Diamond Age and that's a fun book (although like all of his stuff, there's a lot of stuff I skim on rereads.)

 

I wonder who could write the best book given a 300 page limit - GRRM, Rothfuss or NS. All of them seem to suffer from an excessively light editorial touch. To paraphrase Ian Malcolm,  'these authors were so preoccupied with whether or not they could (write pages of logic puzzles / describe gruesome tortures / write pages of elf sex), they didn 't stop to think if they should.' 

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On 6/23/2019 at 11:11 PM, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

So, I’m about halfway through this tome.  Generally, I really enjoy Neal Stephenson.  He prompted 9 years running of non-fiction reading with Anathem.  I thought the first two-thirds of Seveneves were really interesting.  I even enjoyed The Rise and Fall of DODO which he only co-wrote.  

This one is more, and less, cerebral than some of his other works.  It is doing an admirable job of providing a spec-fic story focusing on the “Mind-Body problem”.  But I’m just not down with this story.

I think it is because I hate the idea that if a computer can simulate my personality it is somehow actually “me”.  I just don’t believe that.  

This book buys into that notion really hard. I’m struggling to keep reading but the gushing over the ethics of shutting down a computer simulation based on mapped brains just does not make me care about the “uploaded” characters.

Anyone else reading this one?

 

9 years of reading non fiction inspired by Anathem? I am impressed.  I did read a lot of stuff referred to in Anathem also but most of it was well before I read the book or even heard of Neal Stephenson.  I put that down to reading Phil Dick as a teenager and becoming fascinated with alternate versions of reality and logic.

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2 hours ago, maarsen said:

9 years of reading non fiction inspired by Anathem? I am impressed.  I did read a lot of stuff referred to in Anathem also but most of it was well before I read the book or even heard of Neal Stephenson.  I put that down to reading Phil Dick as a teenager and becoming fascinated with alternate versions of reality and logic.

It really opened up philosophy of math and science to me.

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Is anyone else bothered by idea of an “uploaded” mind actually being the person the source material was taken from?

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2 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Is anyone else bothered by idea of an “uploaded” mind actually being the person the source material was taken from?

I think this idea was explored in Fred Pohl's Beyond The Blue Event Horizon. The uploaded version is just that.  An uploaded copy.

Even Farscape explored this rather well with two Crichtons.

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13 minutes ago, maarsen said:

I think this idea was explored in Fred Pohl's Beyond The Blue Event Horizon. The uploaded version is just that.  An uploaded copy.

Even Farscape explored this rather well with two Crichtons.

Also by Greg Egan in several of his books, notably Permutation City and Diaspora.

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35 minutes ago, maarsen said:

I think this idea was explored in Fred Pohl's Beyond The Blue Event Horizon. The uploaded version is just that.  An uploaded copy.

Even Farscape explored this rather well with two Crichtons.

The twinned Crichtons (where the original was destroyed) were an interesting concept.  The big problem for me is that I’ll never believe the “copy” is me.  And that’s why I’d never step into a “quantum teleporter”.

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I’m on the fence about reading this.  I’m not at all put off by the central premise, with artificial consciousness a staple of SF — and it’s an interesting and relevant topic for near SF — but Stephenson’s writing and narrative structure/discipline has been declining badly since Anathem.  I think Cryptonomicon, the Baroque Cycle and Anathem were his career high.  His earlier works included some fun, light, slightly weird reads before he had matured as a writer to tackle those much bigger novels.  But it has been downhill since then and I need to see some great reviews for this latest book before I give him several hours of my time. 

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On 6/25/2019 at 3:14 PM, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Is anyone else bothered by idea of an “uploaded” mind actually being the person the source material was taken from?

Is that any worse than the Duncan Idaho reboots? Etc...

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On 6/25/2019 at 6:10 PM, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

The twinned Crichtons (where the original was destroyed) were an interesting concept.  The big problem for me is that I’ll never believe the “copy” is me.  And that’s why I’d never step into a “quantum teleporter”.

Both Crichtons considered themselves the original. Scorpius and Harvey are a better example in that Harvey knew he was a copy but still wanted to exist even when his time was coming to an end. 

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On 6/26/2019 at 7:14 AM, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Is anyone else bothered by idea of an “uploaded” mind actually being the person the source material was taken from?

Very much so. Old Man's War handles this well, with the subject being conscious for the process and experiencing sensory input from both original body and the new artificial one at the same time during transference (and a later book suggests the possibility that this could be a fake memory designed precisely to avert such concerns). The big question is whether an "upload" is actually a person at all, or just a glorified chatbot that mimics the person it's based on. Though that's not an issue in literature written from the point of view of an upload where we can see they're a real person, albeit not necessarily the same individual as their biological source.

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4 hours ago, felice said:

Very much so. Old Man's War handles this well, with the subject being conscious for the process and experiencing sensory input from both original body and the new artificial one at the same time during transference (and a later book suggests the possibility that this could be a fake memory designed precisely to avert such concerns). The big question is whether an "upload" is actually a person at all, or just a glorified chatbot that mimics the person it's based on. Though that's not an issue in literature written from the point of view of an upload where we can see they're a real person, albeit not necessarily the same individual as their biological source.

Your point drills down to the real problem. We have no good concrete definition of “consciousness”.  Without it, in reality, there is no way for any of us to demonstrate that we are conscious qualia perceiving entities.  

I know what I perceive.  I know that I believe myself to be conscious, but how can I demonstrate to anyone else that I can and do perceive qualia.

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6 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Your point drills down to the real problem. We have no good concrete definition of “consciousness”.  Without it, in reality, there is no way for any of us to demonstrate that we are conscious qualia perceiving entities.

Yep. I think it's a reasonable working assumption that organic brains typically produce such entities, since we each know our own brain does so, and it seems highly implausible that life would evolve to routinely fake consciousness for an audience of other fakes, but with the same organ also being capable of producing real consciousness in rare cases. But artificial brains are another matter entirely.

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Hi Scot, Hi Isk, long time. I was in here to see if there was anything new in SFF that I hadn't been aware of given my lack of involvement here, and unfortunately the first two pages were pretty disappointing in the sense that there wasn't much of a buzz about anything.

But anyway, I've been wanting to discuss Fall despite the fact that I got 25% in and ground to a halt in Ameristan. (That's probably an anti-rec, if you thought his work went downhill after Anathem, this isn't going to change your mind.) I've been less interested in the ultimate questions about consciousness (I'm treating the work as purely science fictional rather than a fast approaching real and actual possibility), and more about the decisions that Dodge's friend and family have had to make regarding how and when and where his data might be stored and restored. Based on the first quarter, before Dodge has regained consciousness (or "consciousness" if you prefer), he seems like someone whose mind I wouldn't like to have to occupy for an eternity and I am curious whether my reaction plays out at all. You can tell me if you have an opinion, spoilers don't bother me. 

I have a bigger problem with Ameristan and it's characters. It feels like shallow political point scoring for no plot-necessary reason, the college kids are really annoying, the lack of detail on how exactly the non-fake but non-woke news streams irritates me (for example, how whathername's Iowa family receives the news, as they are not Ameristan types, but clearly not coastal types either), and I find myself wishing that Stephenson had gone full Snow Crash with the characterization. That is, ridiculous but entertaining. Did that whole Ameristan mess feel worthwhile to you guys?

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4 hours ago, Eponine said:

Hi Scot, Hi Isk, long time. I was in here to see if there was anything new in SFF that I hadn't been aware of given my lack of involvement here, and unfortunately the first two pages were pretty disappointing in the sense that there wasn't much of a buzz about anything.

But anyway, I've been wanting to discuss Fall despite the fact that I got 25% in and ground to a halt in Ameristan. (That's probably an anti-rec, if you thought his work went downhill after Anathem, this isn't going to change your mind.) I've been less interested in the ultimate questions about consciousness (I'm treating the work as purely science fictional rather than a fast approaching real and actual possibility), and more about the decisions that Dodge's friend and family have had to make regarding how and when and where his data might be stored and restored. Based on the first quarter, before Dodge has regained consciousness (or "consciousness" if you prefer), he seems like someone whose mind I wouldn't like to have to occupy for an eternity and I am curious whether my reaction plays out at all. You can tell me if you have an opinion, spoilers don't bother me. 

I have a bigger problem with Ameristan and it's characters. It feels like shallow political point scoring for no plot-necessary reason, the college kids are really annoying, the lack of detail on how exactly the non-fake but non-woke news streams irritates me (for example, how whathername's Iowa family receives the news, as they are not Ameristan types, but clearly not coastal types either), and I find myself wishing that Stephenson had gone full Snow Crash with the characterization. That is, ridiculous but entertaining. Did that whole Ameristan mess feel worthwhile to you guys?

“Ameristan” seemed like an exaggeration of existing divisions in the US where the problems are just partially political.  He highlighted the difficulty of people with fundamental disagreements over factual assumptions.  Like the insane belief that a city in Utah had been nuked out of existence, when it was still there and the subject of a hoax.  

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9 hours ago, Eponine said:

Hi Scot, Hi Isk, long time. I was in here to see if there was anything new in SFF that I hadn't been aware of given my lack of involvement here, and unfortunately the first two pages were pretty disappointing in the sense that there wasn't much of a buzz about anything.

But anyway, I've been wanting to discuss Fall despite the fact that I got 25% in and ground to a halt in Ameristan. (That's probably an anti-rec, if you thought his work went downhill after Anathem, this isn't going to change your mind.) I've been less interested in the ultimate questions about consciousness (I'm treating the work as purely science fictional rather than a fast approaching real and actual possibility), and more about the decisions that Dodge's friend and family have had to make regarding how and when and where his data might be stored and restored. Based on the first quarter, before Dodge has regained consciousness (or "consciousness" if you prefer), he seems like someone whose mind I wouldn't like to have to occupy for an eternity and I am curious whether my reaction plays out at all. You can tell me if you have an opinion, spoilers don't bother me. 

I have a bigger problem with Ameristan and it's characters. It feels like shallow political point scoring for no plot-necessary reason, the college kids are really annoying, the lack of detail on how exactly the non-fake but non-woke news streams irritates me (for example, how whathername's Iowa family receives the news, as they are not Ameristan types, but clearly not coastal types either), and I find myself wishing that Stephenson had gone full Snow Crash with the characterization. That is, ridiculous but entertaining. Did that whole Ameristan mess feel worthwhile to you guys?

Hi Ep, long time indeed. 

I haven’t started this book yet, and based on your review I’m not in a hurry to either. I really need to be persuaded that this is a significant improvement on his post-Anathem work.  I’m not hearing that yet.

So I appreciate your review but I cannot add any thoughts on how he constructs Ameristan.  The libertarian fantasy is a constant in his novels, generally with enlightened, tolerant, progressive libertarians breaking away to form their own utopian society.

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1 hour ago, Iskaral Pust said:

The libertarian fantasy is a constant in his novels, generally with enlightened, tolerant, progressive libertarians breaking away to form their own utopian society.

I don't remember him being so contemptuous of red state norms as a whole. So far the feeling is very blue tribe rather than libertarian. I guess there may be a switch coming where the woke college students turn out to be less than ideal (which would be more Stephenson-like but probably not make for a better story), but it doesn't feel set up that way. I wouldn't read it if I were you. Even if the ideas end up being worthwhile, it's neither enjoyable the way Anathem was, nor anti-enjoyable in the sense of creating a good atmosphere of dread and impending high stakes. I think I'm going to reach the point Scot did where I fail to care enough about the characters to make this better than non-fiction about the same topic.

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10 hours ago, Iskaral Pust said:

Hi Ep, long time indeed. 

I haven’t started this book yet, and based on your review I’m not in a hurry to either. I really need to be persuaded that this is a significant improvement on his post-Anathem work.  I’m not hearing that yet.

So I appreciate your review but I cannot add any thoughts on how he constructs Ameristan.  The libertarian fantasy is a constant in his novels, generally with enlightened, tolerant, progressive libertarians breaking away to form their own utopian society.

Ohhhh... not this time.  He postulates “Leviticans” who believe Christian Churches lied about Christ dieing on the cross to make Christ the ultimate “beta male”...

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On 7/1/2019 at 12:06 PM, Iskaral Pust said:

The libertarian fantasy is a constant in his novels, generally with enlightened, tolerant, progressive libertarians breaking away to form their own utopian society.

More so than the Seed or 1000 year long clock cycles, 'progressive libertarians' are his most speculative concept. 

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