As in Bruce Sterling's "Swarm," and some of Stephen Baxter's work (such as the grand Evolution), the value of consciousness itself is questioned. Control is an illusion, after all: think about moving your arm, and your arm will already be in motion. We exist after the fact -- or, as Siri's friend Pag puts it, "We're not thinking machines, we're -- we're feeling machines that happen to think."
We are observers, not agents, and where's the survival advantage in that? Watts's aliens, certainly, think rings around his humans and posthumans. They can detect the electromagnetic fluctuations of a human brain, and rewire them in real time. They can time their movements so precisely as to hide in the saccades of our eyes. And they can do it, in part, because they are not conscious, because consciousness is expensive: "I wastes energy and processing power, self-obsesses to the point of psychosis [...] They turn your own cognition against itself. They travel between the stars. This is what intelligence can do, unhampered by self-awareness," is Sarasti's blunt assessment. We are a fluke, a mistake; in evolutionary terms, a dead end. Once we get beyond the surface of our planet we are not fit.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Bookslut | Blindsight by Peter Watts
Nice discussion of Watts's Blindsight, including comparisons to other works on similar themes: Bookslut | Blindsight by Peter Watts: