Thursday, 29 January 2015

Magic Amulets

In Poul Anderson's Genesis (New York, 2001), Serdar:

"'...spent a virtuality among human philosophers...'" (p. 93)

The virtuality (virtual reality?) would have been a simulated environment appearing to his brain only while his body lay somewhere safe but unconscious of its external environment - although the philosophers with whom he conversed might have been distinct self-conscious AI programs? Naia says that their generation:

"'...slip away into dream worlds...'" (p. 94)

When Serdar proposes a wilderness trip to the real Himalayas, he has to clarify that he does mean a "'Reality pleasure.'" (ibid.)

Much later, when the Solar intelligence "emulates" Earth, the "emulation" is much more than a virtual reality. Inanimate objects remain in place on the surface of the emulated Earth even when no one is observing them. The emulation appears not to a single human being immersed in it but to an entire emulated global population who believe that they inhabit the material universe.

The emulations:

"...could be works of imagination - fairy-tale worlds, perhaps, where benevolent gods ruled and magic ran free." (p. 146)

So how many fantasies that we have read have been set inside emulations? No doubt a fairy-tale world would suit Serdar or Naia but Gaia, the Solar intelligence, uses her emulations to study possible histories of Earth. However, there is a distinct fantasy element. Two human beings who had been uploaded into AI's have been downloaded into an emulation and can transfer between emulations by commanding their amulets:

"In perception, the amulets were silvery two-centimeter discs that hung on a user's breast, below garments. In reality - outer-viewpoint reality - they were powerful, subtle programs with intelligences of their own." (p.171)

The parallelism with a fantasy work like E Nesbit's The Story Of The Amulet is obvious.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I have to admire the ingenuity and zeal with which you read and comment on the works of Poul Anderson. It puts my own efforts, such as the 24 letters I wrote to him and my 14 or 15 contributions here into the shade! (Smiles)