Friday, 11 July 2014

Multiverse: AI And STL

David, Brin, "Latecomers" IN Greg Bear and Gardner Dozois, Editors, Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson's Worlds (Burton, MI, 2014), pp. 249-274.

Like Gregory Benford and the later Poul Anderson, David Brin addresses the issues of Artificial Intelligence and slower than light interstellar travel. AI is ideal for STL because how can organisms survive interstellar journeys? But then:

"Instead of just exploring and making further self-copies, the 'mother probe' had a mission to recreate her makers here in a faraway solar system. To nurture and prepare them for a new planetary home. A solution to the problem of interstellar colonization by organic beings." (p. 272)

Apart from thus synthesizing AI with STL, Brin also addresses the more basic question of the fundamental relationship between organic and artificial intelligences. In the opening dialogue of the story, a cyborg and her AI partner quickly dismiss Asimovian Robotics. AI's are not programmed with Laws but brought up as children by human beings and given time to learn. (Susan Calvin did do this in one story.) One giant artificial brain admires and respects human beings because they created AI's despite their often-expressed Frankenstein complex.

The conclusion concerns organic beings alone. Enclosed in an asteroidal habitat but knowing that they cannot indefinitely survive a war of machines raging throughout the Solar System, intelligent organic beings find the only possible way to leave a comprehensible record of their history. Using the primitive information technology of hammers and chisels, they carve in the surrounding rock a massive comic strip: extensive, intricate pictures arranged in neat rows and columns separated by narrow lines of text depict suns, planets, machines, beams, missiles, claws, attackers and defenders.

Like Benford's Furians, these beings find a way to transmit information to any future space-traveling species.

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