Available free online: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/fiction/accelerando/accelerando.html
Accelerando is a book that hits you with a torrent of ideas and technology.
While not all of it is pretty or plausible, there is certainly food for
We start at an Earth a bit further down the road of computerization than we
are. Manfred Macx is a super-techie giving away technology / business solutions
in something like the next step after open source software. Soon events are
rushing ahead at blinding speed. In less than 100 years the planets of the
solar system are well on their way to being disassembled for materials for a
growing halo of computing machines further in towards the sun. Large numbers of
the human race have been uploaded into this computer network. And as more
planets are targeted for disassembly, people who choose to remain flesh are
pushed further out...
And it turns out things haven't gone much better elsewhere in the galaxy.
If you're looking for a happy book, this may not be for you. At least in terms
of immediate gratification, it may give a glimpse of utopia for those attracted
to the idea of uploading themselves into computers. But the uploaded people are
not the central characters in the book (at least not in the most crucial
sense), and the book does not suggest a jolly future in the long run for the
uploaded people either.
One theme is the impact of the technology on the economy. We already live in a
society when the pace of work has left many as constant slaves to cell phones,
blackberries, etc. Automated telemarketing machines phone you at home, spambots
inundate you online, human customer service help is shrinking away being
replaced by automated systems designed to further insulate companies from
responsibilities, etc. What will be the end result of these trends in the
The book asks questions like: Where is computer technology heading? What are
the consequences of its current trajectory? How rapidly will the increasing
pace of technology pull us along in that direction? How would humans at their
current level of social development handle the vast technology developing in
our midst? How do you get the resources to feed this technology frenzy? And
what will be the human consequences of that? What would a galaxy full of solar
systems that had gone through the same process look like? And so on.
I don't know that it's much of a book with answers, but one often has to ask
questions before you find the answers.
Additional comments for those who have read the book
Personally, I found the ending dissatisfying -- while one can point to a few
threads linking the ending to the remainder of the book, on the whole I didn't
feel the end smoothly grew out of the bulk of the story. And there are some
dangling questions one could ask (based on what is dropped in our laps in the
last moments). More of a lead-in to a (sort of) sequel than an ending intended
to bring closure to a book.
As for the first 99% of the book: The theme seems to be the crises that will
result from following computerization to the maximum (or something like that).
I understand his idea that consciousnesses used to having speedy access to vast
resources would find astronomical distances causing unacceptably long access
rates. (I'm not sure why we should assume no such civilizations would discover
the wormhole technology that would allow fast access over astronomical
distances.) It was not so clear to me why the author thought the
"computronium"-ized civilizations in each solar system would descend
as they did. Was it essentially that they lived faster and reached a dead-end
that flesh beings would also reach after a longer period? Was it that uploaded
non-flesh consciousnesses are "soul-less" and fail for that reason?
If it is they use up the resources in their solar system, there seems to be
issues there. While the consciousnesses may not want to venture out to the
fringes of the solar system themselves, they could send non-conscious machines
to harvest the outer planets, Oort and Kuiper regions, and beyond. If we are to
take seriously some of the technology included in this book, a civilization
could even use wormholes to send extra material back from other solar systems.
In any case, these are issues flesh consciousnesses will face, even if not as
quickly. Or is the moral of the story, "Live slowly so you don't use up
your resources so fast"?