An excellent book to recommend and some thoughts on things

john grigg (
Mon, 02 Aug 1999 14:00:54 PDT

Hello everyone,

I am a third of the way through "Inherit the Earth" by Brian Stableford and must say it is a terrific novel! It is set in the 22nd century on earth in a world where nanotech (known as internal technology or IT) has greatly extended lives though emortality has not yet arrived.

The main character is the son and heir of a biotech Bill Gates who supposedly saved humanity from a terrible plague. Imagine having bank accounts with BILLIONS waiting for you and not dipping into them! To show his contempt for his dad the main character does that.

I will not spoil the plot but I will say that it is a very fleshed out universe that Stableford creates that seems so possible one day. The characterization and insights into human nature are excellent but then if you are familiar with Brian Stableford this will not surprise you.

I do think that by the 22nd century we will be more advanced then Stableford projects on nanotech but that is a minor quibble over a novel that everyone on this list should definitely read. "The First Immortal" was good but David Halperin just does not have the writing abilities of a master like Stableford.

I suppose it will forever be a popular topic on this list as to whether we can trust and peacefully co-exist with our "mind children" in whatever forms they take. Of course the plot of the "Terminator" films come to mind as I write this. One reason for nuclear disarmament may be so such weapons are not available for renegade A.I.'s to hack into and take control of. But with nano and biotech it does not ultimately matter I think.

If we compare bringing A.I.'s into the world and programming them to parenting human children I would say we must be good moral examples to them. What a concept!! Could the human race manage that one? could even the United States? What will an A.I. think of our exploitation of third world nations to keep our economy chugging happily along?? Scarily, they may decide to follow our example.

Perhaps the A.I.'s will take a paternal take on humanity and will even let us think we are in charge when actually to a large extent they really are. Sort of like a marriage where both partners have their own spheres of influence. Programming A.I.'s to "behave" may be hard but perhaps we can give them some sort of moral compass to govern themselves.

If a major conflict does come to be a humanity just narrowly wins I could see our A.I.'s being greatly scaled back in terms of ability to self-govern and general capabilities which would slow down human progress and growth certainly. Whether we won a war with our own machines would I think be largely determined by the point at which our machines chose to rebel. I would think A.I.'s would be sure of success before turning against us.

But a single renegade A.I. might be enough to give humanity the necessary scare to radically alter course. But we could go the way of the "Dune" novels and use human computers (mentats) to do some of what machines had done before. I doubt the "Dune" model could ever replace powerful A.I.'s though!

I have read posts about how to avoid the A.I. problem we should use uploading of human minds. And to make that even safer to upload simultaneously a number of honorable individuals so no one or small clique can suddenly seize power. There is a logic to all of this though we must remember that when dealing with human beings we will have the same problems probably with uploads that we do with people down here right now! But at least it will be a known commodity...the human condition.

On the topic of how to utterly exterminate a race of intelligent beings that have colonized a large area of space I would think back to the Larry Niven story "World of Ptavvs" where one race eons ago ruled with an iron hand all the other races of our galaxy. They did this by a telepathic mind control power native to their race that they could mechanically amplify. Now I realize psi is a very debatable issue but I thought the concept here was fascinating. Do not read further if you do not want the plot revealed to you.

A slave race that were masters of bio-engineering created a semi-sentient lifeform that could when it wanted be immune to the mind control and in the guise of a servant class put them in almost every ship and home of the slavemasters. When the signal was given these creatures rended to bits the alien overlords who tried unsuccessfully to their horror to fend them off psionically.

But in the homeworld the alien overlords had a secret doomsday weapon and before they were all killed it was activated. This device sent a hugely magnified message of telepathic compulsion to every intelligent being in our galaxy. The message was "kill yourself!" When the dust settled every slaver and slave was dead with the semi-sentient killing machines to wander about the ruins. Eons later according to the story humanity and other races came to be.

I found the story fascinating as an example of how one very powerful race could be overthrown by others. The slavers had before enslaving other races enslaved the members of their own race with little or no telepathic power and the whole culture was based on this so it seemed only natural to do this to those they encountered in space.

The story has a lone survivor of the race in "time-stop" stasis who uses his powers on the human crew of a spaceship. But the wily onboard A.I. is immune and takes him out! The tiger-like Kzinti are also a part of the story and you would not to be a Kzinti telepath; talk about social pariahs!

It was ages ago I read the story but I very much enjoyed it. So I present it as a fictional example for the extinction topic. Even though psi like I said is highly debatable.

I want to say how much I enjoy reading the list. I have learned a great deal. I am very appreciative of all the great advice I got on ways to improve my brain function. I look forward to the Textropian timeline when it is completed. I still havn't given up on the thought of attending the Extro. Take care everyone.


John Grigg

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