Re: 2001 Prometheus Award finalists, Best [Libertarian Science Fiction] Novel

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Sat Apr 14 2001 - 10:44:33 MDT

On Sat, Apr 14, 2001 at 11:14:05AM +1000, Damien Broderick wrote:
> >The Libertarian Futurist Society has selected five novels as finalists for
> >its annual Prometheus Award for Best Novel.
> >... The Sky Road, by Ken MacLeod (TOR Books)
> >... MacLeod won most recently in 1998 for "The Stone
> >Canal", and in 1996 for "The Star Fraction.".
> Ah, it's always so refreshingly ecumenical to find novels with Trotskyist
> heroes and left-anarchic perspectives winning the award of the Libertarian
> Futurist Society. :)

Having finished his tetralogy in the Star Fraction universe, I think the
prizes are well deserved: not just literary but also because he does
have a rather fresh perspective on libertarian themes. Each novel
presents a different perspective on events, and while only _The Stone
Canal_ has a politically libertarian protagonist I think the general
outcome of his analysis of events seems to be very libertarian in
outlook. It is not a simplistic libertarianism, but rather something
along Virginia Postrel's dynamism - the point is not whether you are an
anarchocapitalist, anarchosocialist or just practically minding your own
business, but whether you are open to change, freedom and responsibility
for your actions.

As for his view on AI, which was debated earlier on this list, I think
he has an interesting if somewhat pessimistic point. The problem with
the AIs in the storyline are not that they are AIs, but that living on a
software timescale they change so fast and have so different reach that
it is hard to build reciprocal relations with them. This lack of
reciprocity makes trust impossible to sustain. The same goes with
posthumans; the storyline in the _Stone Canal_ (and some extra
information from _The Cassini Division_) implies that the big problem is
the isolation that (for various reasons) separated the people working on
the singularity from the rest, creating a serious cultural and
ideological rift. The future society depicted in the _Stone Canal_ that
emerges after the events surrounding the singularity has no real problem
with transhumans interacting with baseline humans in the same timescale,
but is vary of the uploaded "fast people" for the same reasons.

I think his "Civis Britannis sum" from _The Star Fraction_ has a good
point - libertarianism (in whatever form) might be necessary to protect
your rights, but after that you need to be a part of some kind of
society. Atomism/autarchy doesn't really work well, and fragmentation
limits trust and hence easily leads to mistrust and potential

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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