Re: the Focus

Michael S. Lorrey (
Mon, 12 Apr 1999 17:00:26 -0400

Wei Dai wrote:

> I have to agree with Robin on the Matrix. It's ok as an action flick, but
> there really isn't much to talk about, except to develop patches for the
> plot. Hopefully we'll have open-source movies soon so these kinds of bugs
> can be fixed before release.

Its a classic promise/warning piece of fiction. This is what VR will be like, indistinguishable from reality as we know it (considering how much of the 'real' scenes in movies today are actually fabricated on computers, this is not disputable once neural interfaces are developed). It also warns humans not to lose control of their creations, lest humanity become the beast of burden and our creations become the masters. It also warns of the slavery inherent in "The Machine Stops" types of VR induced lethargy.

As for the action part, well, I do have a weakness for kung fu movies....

> I recently read Vernor Vinge's _A Deepness in the Sky_. Everyone here
> probably already knows about this book so I won't bother to recommend it
> except to say go read it now if you haven't already.
> (Spoiler warning)
> I would love to see some more discussion of the book here. So to start it
> off, how plausible do you think the Focus is? In the book, the Focus is
> near the upper limit of technology in the Slow Zone, and was only
> discovered by accident. But I can't tell if Vinge really believes it would
> be difficult to invent or if that is just a plot device. If such
> technology can be developed, is it something extropians should support?

It seems to me to be a nootropically enhanced form of an induced savant state. As characters noticed in the novel, the occasional supergeniuses we know are typically totally unbalanced, usually little or no social or personal hygeine skills. The guy who solved Fermat's theorem focused on that problem in near solitude for five years before he even had a hint he was near solving it.

Its sort of the opposite of attention deficit disorder.

Mike Lorrey