Re: MacLeod's Cassini Division

From: Robin Hanson (
Date: Wed Oct 04 2000 - 06:26:48 MDT

Damien Broderick wrote:
> >In Cassini Division, the good AIs are those that retain human form,
> >environment, speed, and styles of thought, while the bad AIs are those
> >that do not. It seems from what you are saying that this is also true
> >in the Stone Canal as well. So what do you think I've gotten wrong?
>I don't have the books to hand, but my guess is that MacLeod explicitly
>sets up a variety of kinda kneejerk or ideological reactions to all manner
>of things that are often later reversed or at least modified as the
>characters learn more, and certainly as the reader sees more variations
>than any of the characters do. You might well be correct that this
>anti-upload/non-humanoid prejudice seems reinforced by his extant novels,
>but I think that's just an accident of the stories he's happened to tell.
>(Which, granted, might be sufficient for your purposes.) There's no one,
>consistent `line' being run in his work (as there is, maybe, in Asimov's).
>You might as well say he argues for nano Difference Engines in preference
>to electronic computers, but again that's just an accidental side-effect (a
>rather clever and amusing one) of the gloabl EM pulse weapons used in one
>of the books.

We can talk about the point of view of a work of fiction, and when doing
so it is largely irrelevant what the author actually thinks, or what points
of view he presents in other works of fiction. Similarly when I read an
academic article, I evaluate the argument presented there, and for that
purpose it really doesn't matter if the authors came to exactly the opposite
conclusion in some other paper.

I still claim that MacLeod's Cassini Division has a point of view against
uploads that do not retain human form, environment, speed, level, and styles
of thought. I grant that MacLeod himself may not share this view, and that
other books of his may have other views. I also grant that nano-computers
are not essential to the point of view of the novel, and that the book's
point of view doesn't really care much about them one way or the other.
But I do think the book's point of view does care about some things.

Robin Hanson
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030-4444
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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