Reader's Thoughts: A Fire Upon the Deep
- I read it last summer. It's one of Vinge's best books, I think. And there are definite similarities with the OA universe with regard to AI's, although Vinge has not elaborated the details of AI levels to the same degree as in OA. What Vinge has done, after many years of thinking and writing about the Singularity and its implications, is to create a universe-or at least a galaxy, ours-that is divided into levels according to degrees of possible high technology, including artificial intelligence and superluminal drives.
As diagrammed in the prefatory section of A Fire Upon the Deep, the galaxy is divided into zones extending from the core region outward in irregular concentric zones that roughly parallel the lens shape of the Milky Way. The core region is the Slow Zone in which no high technology can function for long. Next outward comes the Low Beyond. Moderate high tech is possible here. Then come the Middle Beyond and High Beyond, where increasingly sophisticated high tech can function. Beyond that lays the Transcend. Here be both super monsters and AI gods, both of which originated from individual High Beyond civilizations that made the dangerous leap into super-tech transcendence.
From what I have read of Vinge's explanations of his writings, it seems clear that this division into zones of potential high tech is more of a writing device than a statement of what he believes about the structure of the universe. Basically, Vinge faced an enormous writer's block back in the late 1980s to early 1990s due to his belief that the approaching Singularity will create such a radical break that we cannot imagine how history will turn and what we may become from that point onward. In his introduction to a story from that period titled "The Blabber" (which introduced the Tines species now included in A Fire Upon the Deep, by the way) Vinge wrote about the galactic zone structure and gave the explanation I presented above.
Most notable about Vinge's worldview with regard to AI's and the Singularity is its essential ambivalence. The history of struggle between forces we might label good and evil (no matter how defined) does not cease, even in the Transcend. In this regard, it is very much like the OA universe.
A Deepness in the Sky
- The prequel to A Fire Upon the Deep
, set thousands of years earlier. Contains magnificent ideas about relativistic trade empires.
Anders Sandberg BACK