Simon Bisson, a British friend who is both a technical architect and a writer, pinged me recently to share his palpable excitement over a book he had just finished reading. It touches on a lot of themes of interest to us in this blog:
Vernor Vinge's new novel (I think it'll be out in July [amazon says May – Kim] , from Tor) “Rainbows End” is a book which touches on many of his recurring concepts, but I think there is a lot here about identity in a networked world. It's a follow up to the novella “Fast Times at Fairmont High” and expands on the short he had published in IEEE Spectrum a couple of years ago
There's a lot in it about ubiquitous networks, reputation management, context, co-presence, affinity hierarchies, augmented reality and the meaning of identity in a highly networked world – one major character's identity is being spoofed three ways. All wrapped up a cracking SF story.
The best I can I can say is that it's a “True Names” for the 21st century.
Which reminds me that I've been meaning to mention an incredible podcast from IT Conversations – Vernor's keynote address from Accelerating Change 2005, where he discusses the potential for a “technological singularity”. This is the event at which the creation of what he calls ‘artificial superhuman intelligence’ changes the world so dramatically that it is impossible to imagine the world after that point.
I think James Martin's moniker of ‘alien intelligence’ is better than the more prevalent term ‘artificial intelligence’ because it underlines the essential difference between computer-based ntelligence and that of humans. But much of my concern about getting the identity metasystem right stems from the need to establish systems of control and privacy that will guide the singularity toward what Vernor calls a “soft takeoff”. You can hear more in this podcast.
It will be interesting, in Rainbows End, to see what a person who has thought so deeply about the singularity makes of identity.