Daily Archives: June 19th, 2009

Singularity Tech Anxiety/Initial Review of ‘The Algebraist’

My summer readings continue unabated quite nicely, since I haven’t had any Internet connection since last December. Until then, I didn’t realize that being online was such a distraction. After looking at it however, and studying the effects of online communications (Twitter, Skype, texting and social networking) I think that unless I have an inboard chip in my brain to keep up with these technological phenomena, I’m going to be left very far behind into the Before Singularity Era.

And believe it or not, that might be okay with me.

The main reason being that I’m very, very nervous about having an RFID chip injected into my brain, for no other reason than the government, or other corporate entities tracking my every move and reading my body signatures and chemistry’s to perhaps to ascertain my motivations for various actions I might be taking.

At the least, my brain could be flooded with non-stop bullshit corporate advertising to buy useless crap, at the worse, brainwashing by the same gov/corp entities.

A lot of people would say that’s typical right-wing paranoia. But is it?

For one thing, I never have considered myself ‘right-wing’, though I do have some libertarian leanings in certain areas. For the most part however, I have always thought that it’s a society’s duty to help the down and out who can no longer care for themselves and let them have a certain amount of dignity in their lives. Most would consider that view ‘left-wing’ or socialist. But I digress.

My distrust of certain Singularitarian technologies might be just fear of the future, but I think I can be justified in saying that these technologies in the wrong hands could cause great harm and can create a fascist society in which individual freedoms are severely restricted, propaganda broad-casted rampantly and pogroms committed against people who don’t have these technologies embedded into their persons.

History bears this out, again and again.

On the other hand, if used properly, these same technologies can create great freedoms and opportunities for populations, if distributed evenly.

If one takes into account that what is happening in Iran just might be legitimate and not a CIA operation, Twitter by itself could change the complection on an entire nation for the better.

History will determine if this is so, Singularity or not.


I have always been a fan of space opera. My first book of it was an anthology titled Space Opera of the 1930s. The book burned up in a house fire my parents had in 1993 unfortunately and I have yet to find it anywhere, even eBay!  Anyway, the genre has made a resurgence in the 1990s and in this first decade of the 21st Century with such authors as Greg Egan, Ian MacDonald, Alastair Reynolds, Charlie Stross (he claims not) and Iain M. Banks.

Banks made his fame with his ‘Culture‘ novels; stories centered around a super-advanced, highly liberal and altruistic galaxy spanning society. Think the society of ‘Star Trek’ in 8,000 years. Those are superb examples of modern day space opera.

But currently I’m reading a banks story that’s not centered in the ‘Culture’ universe, but it’s just as entertaining. The title is ‘The Algebraist’ and to be truthful, I just started reading it this week. From what I have read already, it’s easy to see why it was a Hugo Award nominee for best novel in 2005. Banks uses ‘hard science’ physics in this novel; nothing can move faster than light, but the galactic society uses ‘wormholes’ (called portals here) to stitch the various civilizations together. However, the wormholes must be transported in slower-than-light ships in be placed in the subject solar systems, and that can take centuries. Unfortunately, war is still in style in the future and portals do get destroyed, cutting civilizations off.


Banks also uses gas-giant planet life-forms called ‘Dwellers’, who spread throughout the galaxy billions of years ago. These beings are super long lived in comparison with mankind and other like creatures, who are called the ‘Quick’, simply because their life spans are ‘quicker.’

The Dwellers along with the novel’s protagonist, Fassin Taak, are central to the story, which is different for Banks because he takes a decidely different track than his Culture books, which are AI heavy. In the case of this story, AIs are an enemy and abomination to be destroyed (although they still have their uses). Reminiscent of ‘Dune’ here.

I am now starting to get to a good part in the book where the action starts to pick up some. Hopefully it doesn’t disappoint.

I don’t think it will. I have rarely, if ever, read a bad Iain Banks novel.