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WWW: Wonder Hardcover – April 5, 2011
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With such examples as Hal and Skynet to prejudice us, it’s hardly surprising that Webmind was not received with open arms. Some want to kill it immediately. Others want to try to isolate it somewhere. But Webmind has its own priorities and shows itself to be a worthy opponent and a magnanimous winner. I don’t want to spoil it with specifics, but eventually Webmind proves itself to be a useful addition to humanity.
Meanwhile Caitlin, the blind teenage girl who discovered and nurtured Webmind, manages to ride out her celebrity status and move further into adulthood. There’s nothing particularly Sci-Fi about that part of the story, but it was sweet and kept Webmind’s increasingly high-stakes propositions tied to the realm of mere mortals.
All in all, it was a nice conclusion to the trilogy.
In some ways the book seems a bit rushed though. For example:
He got Pearl Harbor's date wrong. How could any thinking person over forty manage that? I guess Dec. 7th really didn't live in infamy after all.
Sawyer AGAIN discusses the Prisoner's Dilemma without ever having bothered to find out the most basic tenant of game theory: namely that the best choice is often to vary one's responses. The idea that for a given problem, it's best to respond one way part of the time, and another way part of the time, is not intuitive - we tend to think logic can lead us always to one best choice. I'm disappointed to see yet another novelist who's missed that basic point, especially a writer who seems to have attempted a little bit research on the question. For example, in the Prisoner's Dilemma, if one knows the exact penalties for a particular action, it might be best to betray one's fellow prisoner 30% of the time, and support him 70% of the time. The percentages can be figured out EXACTLY with a little math, which I've forgotten. As Sawyer correctly points out, if you have a reputation to uphold, or you can evaluate your fellow prisoner's reputation, then your best action will be different, but THAT is not part of the Prisoner's Dilemma problem.
UPDATE: Sawyer is right. I'm wrong. Damn. Could'a sworn those lectures thirty years back were about the prisoner's dilemma and not some very similar problem in game theory. :-(
The idea that a random choice, even weighted in one direction or another, is the best choice, is pretty amazing to me. I think it goes a little distance to explain the behavior of successful people who don't always seem to follow the same decision rules in seemingly similar decision situations.
Similarly, Sawyer wimps out in three ways:
First, the emergent AI is dependent upon the internet, and therefore dependent on people and decides that maximizing people's happiness is the best way to survive.
Second, the AI, although much smarter than anyone, is somehow deemed less creative than our brightest people; it depends on our creativity for its own advancement.
Third, Sawyer decides to make the AI quote famous people, instead of trying to write anything serious that an entity more intelligent than us might decide to communicate about life.
The question of an emergent AI that was not utterly dependent on humanity and what its morality might be is a bit more interesting that what Sawyer chooses to discus.
Limiting the creativity of the super-smart entity seems to be simply puzzling, as is Sawyer's use of the protagonist's web-sight to twice save the AI from terrible threats - I never understood why the protagonist's help was really necessary for the AI.
Gathering famous speeches produces some pretty interesting things to read, but there is a bit of letdown here...maybe I should have just Googled famous speeches?
But I liked the book. I'm glad I bought it. I recommend it to others. It's got more grit than most well told novels.
That's not, of course, how it ended. But I was extremely disappointed.
All that having been said, however, I wouldn't pass up three volumes of great storyline just because I didn't enjoy the last 5 minutes. I'll just make up my own ending in my head and be happy.
Most recent customer reviews
I was entertained. I learned new things. The whole series was totally believable.