Book: Diaspora

Started: March 15th, 2017

Finished: March 23rd, 2017

After finishing the Prince of Milk (link), I discovered this book was one of the many inspirations for it. I picked it up, figuring I might discover some conceptual heritage.

It was dense.

It was like a math department Ph.D. decided to write hard sci-fi. It took some effort to keep up but ultimately worth it.

Set 900 years in the future, humans evolved to the point of the singularity. Consciousness could be created in silico, with most of the sentient beings in the solar system existing as “programs” running in secret underground servers.

Flesh and blood humans still existed, but their numbers were limited to just a handful of millions across the entire globe. They chose to trade digital immortality for the pleasure and pain of a fleeting physical existence.

The various forms of humanity exist in a distanced, non-intrusive harmony, operating under a policy of “don’t bother me and I won’t bother you.” This arrangement works well until an astronomical disaster annihilates most of the “fleshers” and ravages the biosphere beyond repair.

The surviving organic humans eventually make the transition to the digital, there being nothing left for them on Earth.

Earth destroyed, humanity turns to the stars. FTL proves to not be possible, so the digital nomads leverage their immortality, spending centuries in transit to reach neighboring stars.

This book explored a lot of very complicated concepts; many times I had to put the book down simply to chew over an idea. If you were immortal and only you could be killed by you, how much of eternity would you choose to experience? How does a civilization leave clues of it’s existence that can last a billion years? Could a human mind ever comprehend a higher dimension and if it did could it still be human? Is the technological singularity the destiny for every civilization? If you lived in the realm of the digital and could create any reality you chose, would you still be interested in the world outside or spiral into solipsism?

Again, this was hard read and it broke my brain a bit. I’m happy I slugged through it, but I’m still processing it even weeks after having finished it.

This book is not for everyone. If you like authors to go in depth into physics and math and computational theory, you might enjoy this book. I really do highly recommend it. Just be warned mileage will vary.

As always, happy reading and until next time.

— Michael

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