Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash (’92) and Diamond Age (’95) were once some of my favorite science fiction novels. And his Anathem (’08) is the very favorite of a friend. So hearing that his new book Fall; or, Dodge in Hell
By the time of Age of EM I suspect most work will be automated, especially in a virtual environment. The only important work remaining will probably be towards achieving super intelligence. The idea of EM plumbers or restaurant managers is kind of absurd. For humans, age of EM is the brief period in history before singularity. There may be other highly technical jobs available to EMs but the most elite/coveted positions will involve working on AGI and beyond.
Truly enjoyed reading this. Keep writing more incredible posts!
People might want to live in a fantasy world if they had no other constraints. Though even then I doubt they fantasize about boring physical labor. But in all of human history they actually had to work, and they did work, and that fact should continue even in a world of ems.
I think Stephenson handles the matter very well. So long as human minds inhabit the substrate, they will want what human minds want. Humans dream of flying, so they create wings for themselves. They want to inhabit magical realms, so they create them. Some want to be furry beasts, and so they become that. So long as human minds desire the company of other humans, they will share that common human experience, with the exception being those with mental illnesses or extreme personalities, like the person who wanted to become a rock mountain.
Secondly, the second God of Fall specifically banished the first precisely because the first wanted a human-centric society. And that society that did not take human form created a hive mind. You can blame Stephenson for not adequately exploring this non-human instantiation in the world, or what the extended effects of its existence might have been, but it was included. In fact, it precipitated the first great Act of God in that realm - a direct invocation of the Tower of Babel.
Yes, I read it. The book focuses on the horror of a few cubic meters of soul being used to create a vast hell. But it doesn't notice the far vaster waste of a galaxy of such materials NOT used to create positive lives.
FWIW, Ian Banks' "Surface Detail" (2010) is largely about ems in a hell artifact. Don't know if you're familiar.
(I haven't yet read your post - avoiding the spoilers.)
LISTER: Look, Rimmer, death isn't the handicap it used to be in the olden days. It doesn't screw your career up like it used to.RIMMER: That's what they say, Lister. But if you had two people coming for a job, and one of them was dead, which one would you pick?LISTER: It depends which is better qualified.RIMMER: Bull pats! When was the last time you saw a dead newsreader?LISTER: Channel 27 have a hologram reading the news.RIMMER: Oh, groovy, funky Channel 27. Big smegging deal. You livvies hate us deadies.
Multi-threaded programs are notoriously difficult to reason about and result in unanticipated issues like race conditions that occur when hardware performance changes. Regardless, I don't think Ems are like multi-threaded Java programs but I'd be surprised if the emergent temporal systems of the brain are not tuned to real-world time granularities. Your confidence, however, is impressive :-)
I don't trust my ability to make deals that all future Em-Me-Instances are satisfied spending an eternity fulfilling. Regrets are real.
p.s. I think my last comment was marked as spam. Not important since you replied but I can't speak for future Em-Me :-)
Considering most humans don't care much about life having a "point," you should expect ems to behave the same wayGalaxy Express 999 handled this in a more believable way; over very long periods of time (longer than a human lifetime) machine-people become deeply despondent as they retain human longings that don't make sense for immortal robots.
One exception was a man who became a robot so he could evangelize Buddhism to the whole Universe, a task that by its nature would take an unlimited amount of time:
Programs only have issues with timing if they must synchronize with outside processes, or if their internal implementation is noisy. All copies of an em remember everything that em remembers, so they are all equally well informed about any copy deals.
The mechanics of the em world in Fall sound unpleasantly reminiscent of Overdrawn at the Memory Bank. "It was eerie, watching Fingal creating his own reality simulation around him, especially since he didn't even know he was doing it."
Black Mirror has ems in some episodes, but the treatment of the concept is usually depressingly shallow. "San Junipero" uses a similar "AI heaven" concept to Fall, and makes even less sense--in the scenario it sets out, ems should perfectly capable of interacting with the outside world, but for no adequately explained reason they simply don't. (The author of "San Junipero" actually admitted writing it to troll viewers who were fretting that Black Mirror was going to lose its edge after its move to Netflix.)
I presume you've already seen the Lem story adaptation in Victim of the Brain:https://www.youtube.com/wat...
Though those weren't ems per se.
The Doctor Who episode "Silence in the Library" is about par with the typical Black Mirror treatment of ems.
Max Headroom definitely qualified as an em, though Max was explicitly a one-off (there's some subtle implication that Bryce Lynch's mentor was contemplating things of a much more ambitious scale before turning dissident.)
Altered Carbon and Galaxy Express 999 are the only series I've encountered that really try to take on posthuman sociology, but neither has much to say on the subject of ems.
The only series I can think of that's in the ballpark of what you're after is Red Dwarf, in which people whose minds have been backed up to disc can be recreated as computer-generated holograms in the event of their deaths. https://www.youtube.com/wat...
I said my best guess is that ems are free though perhaps indebted, though theory doesn’t let me make a strong prediction.A splitting tree of em copies can be given distinct identifiers as easily as can a tree of files. Once we know that ems are running on computers, interacting with virtual realities that we also create on computers, we are sure that a combination of these two can be run faster or slower, as that’s just true for all computer programs.
Its been a while since I've read your book and I don't have a copy to refresh my memory. My memory is that you said something along the lines of others-have-discussed-ownership-issues-just-pick-your-favorite-solution-and-move-on. For me, the intellectual property rules/rights is crucial and dominates how the economic aspects unfold. Forgive my vagueness on Intellectual-Property/Ownership but my lasting impression is all I got left.
My issue with identity is that I can't imagine large numbers of em instances with the same memories/identity interacting with one another like they were family/community/co-workers. Each instance needs a me-v2.9.3-instance43905 style identifier and since these are Ems there is no way to assign and pre-load instance identifiers. If the number of instances of a specific em is the size of Canada how do they co-ordinate if their only identity is equivalent to "Hi, I'm Canada". You go into the details of work-life balance but I can't get past how they use email (or any other communication mechanism) without instance identifiers.
How is variable speed ems not in question? That is what bugs me. The core premise of Ems is that we don't have to understand how they work. Just make perfect copies and let the emergent properties will re-emerge. Well, I imagine that the emergent properties are very much dependent on the timing/frequency of the inputs. The starting assumption must be that the sensory inputs and "thinking speed" are indistinguishable from real-world people. Anything else feels like science fiction and doesn't sit well with me.
I LOVE your starting premise of Ems especially since my instincts push me along the lines of pure but simplified AI. I was excited when started reading it but I kept finding myself thinking "wow I would never make those assumptions" and I'm not sure if its you or me that is odd. Maybe both :-)
My book Age of Em talks a lot about identity and ownership; what do you find unsatisfactory about those discussions? And how is variable speeds for ems at all in doubt?
Yes, and the odd fact about that Star Trek world is that ems only do this doctor task, and not most of the other tasks.
I thought John Sclazi's "Old Man's War" was a very interesting take on ems/clones with a very different set of assumptions about the costs/legality/use-cases for em-tech.
Quite honestly, Robin, I find your assumptions about low-cost em-tech very odd. I don't understand how you can start with the idea that em-tech is more likely than pure AI but then you focus on variable speed runtimes as a given.
I can't get past how 1. Identity, and 2. Ownership could work in a low-cost em-tech world.