Spoiler: Blind from birth, Caitlin Decter received the gift of sight with the aid of a signal-processing retinal implant. The technology also gave her an unexpected side effect — the ability to “see” the digital data streams of the World Wide Web. And within the Web, she perceived an extraordinary presence, and woke it up.
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It calls itself Webmind. It is an emerging consciousness that has befriended Caitlin and has grown eager to learn about her world. But Webmind has also come to the attention of WATCH — the secret government agency that monitors the Internet for any threat to the United States, whether foreign, domestic, or online — and the agents are fully aware of Caitlin’s involvement in its awakening.
WATCH is convinced that Webmind represents a risk to national security and wants it purged from cyberspace. But Caitlin believes in Webmind’s capacity for compassion — and she will do anything and everything necessary to protect her friend.
Par Robert James SAWYER, ISBN 978-0-441-01818-5.
As pleasant to read as the previous one, this sequel finally deals with the subject: the consequences of the emergence of artificial intelligence.
Muting the technological explanations and sidestepping some side quests, it’s a lot more impactful and, in my opinion, a lot more interesting.
Economic psychology and game theory bring a refreshing and finally argued point of view to the technological singularity. Usually anticipated as the enslavement or the destruction of the human species by machines, the point of view here is of a mutually beneficial, symbiotic and, above all, credible cohabitation.
The villains of this story are therefore not the machines but the governments and their secret services who want to keep control of the population. Battle doomed to failure, the story ending with the opening of a new era for humanity.
The story is picking up pace! The author finally gets to the heart of the matter and this time almost everything that is written serves the story.
The idea of a beneficent intelligence is refreshing. The justification made by the author is logical and well-argued.
Caitlin and Webmind’s relationship (the emerging consciousness) is weird. The young girl is observed and listened to by Webmind 24/24, her letters, her messages, everything is observed by Webmind, and that does not pose any problems to her. Neither to her, nor to her parents …
It is a pity that the dilemma at the heart of the book (namely whether to eliminate Webmind, even if it is good because it is still possible to do so) is not further developed.
- The (french version of the) book at Les Libraires