Which book are you looking forward to reading?
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Author:  Gray Fry [ Wed Feb 25, 2009 12:24 pm ]
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Doh! I meant CREATURES of the Pool.

Author:  George Berger [ Fri Mar 06, 2009 10:55 pm ]
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I'm hoping to read Greg Egan's DIASPORA right after this weekend. I tried it once and failed, not because the book didn't interest me but because reading it takes more mental effort than I could deploy at that time. I am quite a skeptic about strong AI but sometimes enjoy reading about it. DIASPORA carries the ideas involved to a new limit. So it's daring and challenging. Good stuff for your mind/brain.

Author:  George Berger [ Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:55 pm ]
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I started DIASPORA this morning. The beginning is difficult but highly illuminating. If you know something about the contents of the two books Egan references you will be thrilled. He describes his idea of how what Dennett calls a Virtual Machine might actually produce a virtual mind, i.e. one embedded in the software of a computer. I am an AI skeptic, but this account makes the idea of software minds more plausable to me than ever before. The mind is constructed step by step until it's there. Each step has, I am sure, conceptual and constructional problems, but perhaps they can be overcome.

Author:  Stu [ Thu Mar 12, 2009 8:16 pm ]
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Diaspora has been sitting on my shelf for ages. I'll have to get round to reading it one day.

Author:  George Berger [ Thu Mar 12, 2009 8:47 pm ]
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I am very impressed by the opening chapter of DIASPORA. Last night I posted some first comments. Now that I have finished the chapter I can say that its construction of a software mind is almost convincing, but that at least two points cause me to have doubts. They are related.
On p.23 (of the 01 paperback) Egan describes an INTENTION to act in the orphan's nascent mind. We are at a stage where Yatima cannot distinguish between his and others' minds. Now, can such a rudimentary mind have SUCH an intention (or any)? If the orphan cannot think "I'm Yatima and I intend to do X and that's another mind that intends to do Y", can it be said to have an intention at all?
The related problem is this. The author constructs the orphan's mind and its self-awareness by means of the orphan's interactions with other minded entities (here: virtual beings). How did these other, fully self-aware, intention-bearing beings get THEIR minds? No answer is forthcoming, so the story becomes implausable at this early point. The author owes us more information.
Greg Egan is in the best of company. For the great 20th Century German philosopher of Austro-Hungarian birth, Edmund Husserl, attempted a similar construction of the mental in his PARIS LECTURES of the early 1930s (based on previous research). An expanded version was posthumously published in German as the CARTESIANISCHE MEDITATIONEN. An excellent English translation is easily available. Husserl's construction differs little from Egan's, although the philosopher knew nothing of computer theory (first developed in 1936). But it is superior in that it is not beset by the first problem I just described. This philosophical text is not outdated, for the comparison with DIASPORA shows that both authors are attacking the same deep problem: how does the development of a single mind depend on the presence of others that are already developed?

Author:  George Berger [ Thu Mar 12, 2009 8:49 pm ]
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Stu, you beat me to it. I had hoped to place my philosophical note right below my previous one. The book is excellent and I'm delighted to see that you are reading my stuff.

Author:  George Berger [ Mon Apr 27, 2009 9:23 pm ]
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Although I *finished* my second reading of DIASPORA I must re-re-read it. The last few chapters were very difficult. In particular, I could not visualise the situations described. Formulae, not words, would have been more adequate, but then we would not be reading literature. Since I am convinced that Mr Egan's intentions are very serious--to alert us to the weirdness of the universe and theories about it--I must try once more. Nobody has ever accused me of lacking perseverance, thanks to the bad impression made on me by a 1949 version of this: ... That_Could .

Author:  Foxie [ Tue Apr 28, 2009 5:03 am ]
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I think you and I differ here. If a book still foxed me after a second reading, I'd file a blameless divorce and move on. (Although, to be honest, I'd most likely file after the first failed attempt. It would have to be truly exceptional to warrant a second pass)... You must tell us if it's worth is after a third attempt.

Author:  George Berger [ Tue Apr 28, 2009 6:00 am ]
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Hi Foxie---Thanks for the comment. I shall definitely report back, perhaps with some progress reports. I must confess that I read fiction to keep me thinking about the universe and its weird inhabitants. The British biologist J.B.S. Haldane once asserted something very close to this: The universe is not only stranger than we think, it's stranger than we CAN think. I tend not to believe that, but agree that we live in a very strange place. Egan comes so close to capturing my feelings that understanding the details of his attempt is worth my time and effort.

Author:  Lawrence Dagstine [ Fri May 01, 2009 6:54 pm ]
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At the moment, THE BONE FACTORY by Nate Kenyon.

Author:  Foxie [ Tue May 05, 2009 10:08 am ]
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Waiting for Unnatural Historyto come through my letterbox. Saturday morning adventures in a steampunk world. And I heard about them from the ad on the back of IZ 221!

Author:  Pete [ Tue May 05, 2009 10:12 am ]
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Gary Braunbeck's "Far Dark Fields" - as soon as I finish reading review copies for Black Static #11, Braunbeck is game on.

Author:  David Price [ Tue May 12, 2009 4:42 pm ]
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I'm dipping into the past at the moment. I've read a couple by George Orwell, and I've just bought a copy of Conan Doyle's 'The Lost World'. It was reading all of his Sherlock Holmes' stories that started me writing in the first place.

Author:  Tony [ Mon Jun 08, 2009 1:36 pm ]
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Just received Rudy Rucker's Hylozoic, a sequel to Postsingular, which I praised (as best SF novel of 2007) in IZ #215.
Chuffed to notice my comments are quoted from twice, on the book jacket's front flap and back cover. Not bad for 120-words review!

Hylozoic's first chapter, After Everything Woke Up, was in IZ #220.

Author:  Ray [ Mon Jun 08, 2009 3:49 pm ]
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Matheson's 'Nightmare at 20,000 Feet and other stories' is high on my list, once I get through the current half dozen I'm reading now!

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