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Manna: Two Visions of Humanity's Future Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 110 customer reviews

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Length: 79 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Product Details

  • File Size: 233 KB
  • Print Length: 79 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: BYG Publishing, Inc.; 1 edition (March 5, 2012)
  • Publication Date: March 5, 2012
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007HQH67U
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,362 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A few days ago (March 3, 2012) I heard Marshall Brain give a
riveting talk to the Stanford Transhumanist Association.
What will be the fate of humanity in a future world
populated by supersmart AIs and robots.
His message: basically, we're toast.

According to Brain, the future will bring increasing unemployment
as broad swaths of humanity are replaced by robots. As a consequence,
wealth will continue to concentrate in the hands of a privileged few,
with the great majority (the 99%) being forced into grinding poverty.
(You've heard this before from, say, Karl Marx - but it gets even more bleak.)

As the AIs become ever more powerful they may come to regard
us first as chimpanzees, then as chickens, and finally as bacteria.
How will the AIs deal with us? Possibilities include extermination,
zoos, prisons, and tailor-made virtual reality utopias
(Heavenly or Eden-like versions of The Matrix.)

Scary stuff, but is it true? Yeah, it might happen.

In a brief chat afterward, I told him the best
I could see for humanity in a post-Singularity world
was planet Earth as a retirement home for humanity - watched over
by "machines of loving grace." Perhaps not the exuberant vision
that you're used to, but not that different from real life.
Now, you get old and die, but you get to see
an improved, next generation carry the torch forward.
Post-Singularity, it's just that the machines are carrying the torch
(directing planetary affairs, doing the real innovation, and going to the stars.)

Ok, now back to the book. Having been primed for a nonstop trip
to Hell, the vision portrayed in the book was actually a relief.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Manna short story carries two powerful, yet plausible messages about our near future. In this story advancing machine intelligence amplifies the lost of democracy and the concentration of wealth. Robert Reich's Supercapitalism wins. Or so it seems - open source anarchy to the rescue!
An interesting and eye opening trip.
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This thought provoking novella is a must read! Unfortunately, the utopian resource-based economy described in the latter half of the book is much less likely to occur than the oppressive Orwellian structure of future societies dominated by a wealthy minority in charge of the robots. Inevitably, robotic technology will advance and machines will replace a significant number of people in the work force. In fact, there is overwhelming evidence that the working and middle classes are in the process of becoming obsolete. It's only a matter of long it will take.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This is a fascinating story that I found out about from a message board discussion of the effect that automation is having on society and will have in the future, which evolved into a discussion of how we might transition into a post-scarcity society. I enjoyed the story very much as a fictional depiction of the ideas we were hashing out, though others said it was badly written.

It's not so much that it's badly written (though I can't argue the point) but that it's written in a style that has been out of fashion for about a century. Very early SF stories used to use a very similar format for describing scientific and social advances that would Change the World. "Professor Formison's Fluxo-logic Capacitor, by altering the variations in the ether, allowed an individual wearing it to ride gravity waves, and thus Nathaniel found himself floating in the air, gazing in wonder at the ground below him, shielded from the harmful effects that would have been incurred by a plunge to his doom by the marvelous abilities of the Fluxo-Logic Capacitor."

It was also commonplace in SF in those days to contrast the marvelous wonderfulness of Society A which had embraced Ringolated Tharianism with the awfulness of Society B which had not done so. Society A would often how towering spires of shining glasslike buildings with the inhabitants frolicking happily about while Society B's inhabitants lived in pathetic hovels made of Terrorfoam and grumbled while eating reconstituted cardboard or something like it. 'Manna" pretty much exactly follows this plan.

Still an interesting read. I think what made the first part so riveting was the sheer plausibility of the initial robotic incursion.
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This book sure is something else.

I've been digging into the whole 'post-scarcity economy' thing for years after having first been introduced to the concept by Jacques Fresco of The Venus Project [...], James P. Hogan's "Voyage from Yesteryear" and The Culture Series from Ian Banks. I've seen the dystopian version from The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson and Counting Heads by David Marusek.

But this book Manna, drives the science fiction into the harsh limelight of the soon-to-be future. It doesn't even require real AI or advanced nanotechnology to achieve it. It all starts with a desktop computer in a back office and radio headset like they wear at the fast food restaurants.

After reading this book, you'll never look at those employees wearing those headsets the same way again.

After reading this book, you'll be wanting to find out where you can sign up for the post-scarcity civilization as how it should be.

The book is simple, told in a narrative style by the protagonist much in the same style as Jules Verne, in my view. But that's the point: The plot is only supposed to be the vehicle to show you what is coming and how we can adapt to it as a new phase of civilization dawns on humanity.

Certain details get overlooked in the process, such as how some of the things the expert software system MANNA tells/does to the employees that would get that employer in hot water with the lawyers (especially in California). But then again those details don't really matter, as the reader becomes convinced that the paradigm shift of robots taking away 90% of human jobs will happen no matter what kind of obstacles are placed in its way.

For 99 cents and only 79 pages of reading time, this book is worth its weight in gold.
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