Accelerando by Charles Stross - ISBN 0441012841 - Ace Books 2005


Recommended by Koganei and brief review read in the transhumanist magazine (link to add, check WithoutNotes).


Part 1: Slow Takeoff

  • "The question of whether a computer can think is no more interesting than the question of whether a submarine can swim." Edsger W. Dijkstra
  • 1 Lobsters
    • "Interpreters are ideologically suspect" (p3)
    • "Have no desire to experiment with patent shell companies held by Chechen infoterrorists." (p3)
    • the concept of "state vector" could be compared with a manifold in Information Geometry
    • "the guy who patented using genetic algorithms to patent everything they can permutate from an initial description of a problem domain" (p4)
    • "he has virtual immunity from the tyranny of cash; money is a symptom of poverty, after all" (p4)
    • "the present-day universe being merely the data left behind by a really huge calculation" (p8)
  • 2 Troubadour
    • "Around the world, laboring women produce forty-five thousand babies a day, representing 1023 MIPS of processing power." (p15-16)
    • "A marginally intelligent voicemail virus masquerading as an IRS auditor [...] A different virus is busy hijacking people's bank accounts" (p18)
    • the recurrent idea of "company matrix" (p23) as "executes a script in a functional language" (p22) and "flock of cellular automata" (p22) could be associated with concepts like VirtualStructure using BPMN yet, so far, the administrative part (automatizing the paperwork) still seems to be the "bottleneck"
  • 3 Tourist
    • several short references to key topics
      • fractal dimensions of leaves, Benoit Mandelbrot and Geoffrey West
      • Society of Minds, Marvin Minsky

Part 2: Point of Inflection

  • "Life is a process which may be abstracted from other media." John Von Neumann
  • 4 Halo
    • "real thinking is mostly done by the halo of a thousand trillion processors that surround the meat machines with a haze of computation" (p43)
    • "build up a mental immune system" (p46)
    • theme of smart childs also early technology adopter, thus potentially having greater power, also present in Shangri-La and other recent science-fiction works
    • regarding the "3D printer" see my earlier notes on Diamond Age and its M.C. or Matter Compiler
    • "Cosmologists and quants collaborate on bizarre relativistically telescoped financial instruments. Space (which lets you store information) and structure (which lets you process it) acquire value while dumb mass - like gold - loses it. " (p55)
    • "it's not the darkness that frightens her, it's the lack of thought. For a hundred kilometers below her there are no minds, and even on the surface there's only the moronic warbling of 'bots for company. Everything that makes the universe primate-friendly seems to be locked in the huge spaceship that looms somewhere just behind the back of her head, and she has to fight down an urge to shed her straps and swarm back up the umbilical that anchors the capsule to the Sanger. " (p56)
      • as if one were afraid to loose not just social bonds but also the ability to learn, progress and thus improve its chances of survival?
  • 5 Router
    • believing in the singularity, being a singulitarian, the rapture of the nerds (p69)
    • "Have we made contact yet?" (p72)
      • can this be linked with the previous remark on fear on "the lack of thought" p56 and thus for humanity quest on "alien intelligence"?
      • or more vulgarly, just Infornography?
    • "Conversations carried out via a packet-switched network in real time, not limited by the speed of light, but bound together by a common reference frame and the latency between network hops. " (p72)
    • "most companies are now software abstractions of business models" (p72)
    • "The real owners of this network we've plugged into probably use much higher-level protocols to communicate; sapient packets to build effective communications gateways. " (p76)
    • "<<A grammatical weapon.>> Boris spins himself round slowly. <<Build propaganda into your translation software if you want to establish a favorable trading relationship. How cute. Haven't these guys ever heard of Newspeak?>>" (p76)
    • "<<Some of the species today are artificial, but all of us trade information for self-advantage.>>" (p79)
    • "the desert of postindustrial civilization, mistaking acceleration for collapse. " (p81)
    • "Ecologies of thought are forming in a Cambrian explosion of ideas: For the solar system is finally rising to consciousness, and mind is no longer restricted to the mere kilotons of gray fatty meat harbored in fragile human skulls" (p81)
  • 6 Nightfall
    • (p82)
    • "<<Closest reference from human historical database is Descartes's demon. This entity has retreated within a closed space, but is now unsure whether it is objectively real or not. In any event, it refuses to interact.>>" (p87)
      • "opens the port to Sadeq's pocket universe" (p96)
      • see also The Thirteenth Floor directed by Josef Rusnak, 1999

Part 3: Singularity

  • 7 Curator
    • "he carries a little homunculoid around in his society of mind, a model of Amber" (p103)
    • "isn't it clear that our entire universe is probably a simulation? " (p109)
    • "a dedicated high-density memory stor" (p113)
      • see also my notes on The Diamond Age regarding Sleep Dealer, BBC memoryshare, ...
    • "Life begets intelligence, intelligence begets smart matter and a singularity" (p123)
  • 8 Elector
    • "The city is an agoric-annealing participatory democracy with a limited liability constitution" (p128)
      • see also the software managed city of Romdo (also spelled Romudo or Romdeau) in Ergo Proxy, 2006
    • "Economics 2.0 is itself obsolescent, forced to mutate in a furious survivalist arms race" (p128)
  • 9 Survivor
    • "this very mammalian arms race gave us a species of social ape that used its theory of mind to facilitate signaling - so the tribe could work collectively - and then reflexively, to simulate the individual's own inner states. " (p151)
    • "Manfred finds he can sense a shadow of Aineko's huge algorithmic complexity hanging over the household, like a lurching nightmare out of number theory. " (p156)
    • "the trouble with dealing with posthumans; their mental model of you is likely to be more detailed than your own. " (p157)

Overall remarks and questions

  • long sentences with technical vocabulary make the style a bit heavy rather than help to "feel in the future". Sometimes it feels more like marketing buzzwords, even if the concepts employed to make sense.
    • as opposed to Futurama?
  • most male persona are rather submissive or uneasy with women despite their power position, which is a bit strange. Having one or two of them would make it original but most, why?
  • the notion of time and space are use a lot, yet the contextualisation, especially when a new chapter starts, are not always easy, making once again the immersion potentially harder than it could be
  • key persona like Manfred, who seems to be central to the story and even overall to the whole universe, suddenly disappear, how can it be coherent with it's power position?
  • several unrequired religious connotation on terms like godlike intelligence, godlike agencies, devil's own immune system, etc that could easilly be replaced as they do not actually help to understand by providing additional information

See also


(:new_vocabulary_start:) whorls arcing contorting writhing indenture chattel juts to wilt gaudy systolic speckle tort portentously askance creaky rueful trellis (:new_vocabulary_end:)

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