Daemon. Freedom. By Daniel Suarez

Upon the death of a gaming genius, a swarm of networked bots goes out on the Internet inflicting spectacular damage and carnage upon people as well as computer systems. At first it appears to be the work of a mad, deranged genius with a grudge.

But Daemon goes way deeper than that. Way deeper. It’s not about a mad scientist at all. It touches upon themes blogged about here. Who will be in control of our increasingly technological world. Are our governments autonomous or controlled by others. More to the point, will they survive in their current form. Will the future bring rigid control from the top down or free-forming networks grouping and re-grouping at will.

That’s all I’ll say. No spoilers, here. Daemon is a genuinely suspenseful sometimes scary novel, amazingly well-written and constructed too. I couldn’t put it down.

The sequel, Freedom, has just been published, and includes civil war in the Midwest and a populist uprising. These bots don’t just have influence inside computers. Not hardly.

Some of the technology in Daemon includes, driverless cars, guns with no moving parts, liquid armor, MRIs that read minds, laser-induced plasma channel weapons, augmented reality, and more. Fantasy? No. They all exist now. Bots too.

Daniel Suarez gave a talk to the Long Now Foundations about bots. From their summary.

Left unchecked, bots will trap the human race because the automation they enable will make it possible for a few people to run humanity while the rest of us are unable to make decisions of any consequence. Bots are thus vectors for despotism, with the potential to create a world where only a small group of people understand how society works. In the worst case, the controls over bots disappear — for example, the only person who knows the password to a corporate bot dies– and the bots become autonomous.

We are in a Darwinian struggle with narrow AI, and so far at least the bots are winning. But there is a solution: build a new Internet hard-coded with democratic values. Start with an encrypted Darknet into which only verifiably human users can enter. Create augmented reality tools to identify bots in the physical world. Enlist the aid of a few tame bots to help forge a symbiotic relationship with narrow AI. Stir in some luck, and perhaps we can avoid the fate of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice who rashly enchants a broom to do his tedious chores and ends up terrorized by his imperfect creations. We had better succeed, for unlike the fable, there is no Master Sorcerer ready to return to break the spell and save us from our folly.

This is not science fiction. It’s already here.


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