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384 pages, Hardcover
First published October 3, 2006
“And so we waited: four optimized hybrids somewhere past the threshold of mere humanity, one extinct predator who'd opted to command us instead of eating us alive.”
“Imagine a crown of thorns, twisted, dark and unreflective, grown too thickly tangled to ever rest on any human head. Put it in orbit around a failed star whose own reflected half-light does little more than throw its satellites into silhouette. Occasional bloody highlights glinted like dim embers from its twists and crannies; they only emphasized the darkness everywhere else.
Imagine an artefact that embodies the very notion of torture, something so wrenched and disfigured that even across uncounted lightyears and unimaginable differences in biology and outlook, you can't help but feel that somehow, the structure itself is in pain.
Now make it the size of a city.”
“Point being you can use basic pattern-matching algorithms to participate in a conversation without having any idea what you're saying. Depending on how good your rules are, you can pass a Turing test.”
“What's the survival value of obsessing on a sunset?”
“Killing innocents is the least of the risks you're running; you're gambling with the fate of worlds, provoking conflict with a star faring technology whose sole offense was to take your picture without permission.”
“This is how you communicate with a fellow intelligence: you hurt it, and keep on hurting it, until you can distinguish the speech from the screams.”
“She'd just fallen back on the oldest trick in the Torturer's Handbook, the one that lets you go home to your family after work, and play with your children, and sleep at night: never humanize your victims.”
“Because if Sarasti was right, scramblers were the norm: evolution across the universe was nothing but the endless proliferation of automatic, organized complexity, a vast arid Turing machine full of self-replicating machinery forever unaware of its own existence. And we—we were the flukes and the fossils. We were the flightless birds lauding our own mastery over some remote island while serpents and carnivores washed up on our shores.”
“There's no such things as survival of the fittest. Survival of the most adequate, maybe. It doesn't matter whether a solution's optimal. All that matters is whether it beats the alternative.”
“I shook my head. "I just observe, that's all. I watch what people do, and then I imagine what would make them do that."
"Sounds like empathy to me."
"It's not. Empathy's not so much about imagining how the other guy feels. It's more about imagining how you'd feel in the same place, right?"
Pag frowned. "So?"
"So what if you don't know how you'd feel?”
“He wasn't just grasping at the limb, I realized as I joined them. He was tugging at it. He was trying to pull it off.
Something laughed hysterically, right inside my helmet.”
Consciousness almost seems like a bad adaptive trait. It almost gets in the way sometimes. Limits our focus. Why do we have a brain that can store so much data, but this consciousness that has a limit of the awareness of the data.