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The Lifecycle of Software Objects {novella} (2010)

by Ted Chiang

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5875031,257 (3.92)36
The story of two people and the artificial intelligences they helped create, following them for more than a decade as they deal with the upgrades and obsolescence that are inevitable in the world of software. At the same time, it's an examination of the difference between processing power and intelligence, and of what it means to have a real relationship with an artificial entity.… (more)
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» See also 36 mentions

English (49)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (50)
Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)
It's extremely common for fans of science fiction to describe the genre as being about "exploring what it means to be human". This is both a prestige move, to try and raise it to the level of Real Books where Real Stuff happens; and a tactical move, to separate it from the greasy wastes of fantasy with its endless repetitions of elves and chainmail bikinis. This book isn't the pinnacle of sci-fi or anything, and in fact I'm pretty sure several authors have neatly tucked its insights into their works before, but its fits right into that description of sci-fi and is actually fairly well-written. It's about two people, Ana and Derek, who get involved in the creation and use of digients, which are essentially sentient Tamagotchis for people who want alternatives to pets or children. They develop attachments to their digients, but when the company that makes them goes out of business and there's not enough money to port them to a new virtual environment, they have to cope with how the digients will fit into their lives as they try to get the money to pay for the port. It's basically a parable about how parents relate to their children, how do you deal with them growing up and having their own lives, how do you make time for them, etc. I have to say that this world is disturbingly possible, and I can easily see people getting extremely attached to software objects in lieu of having real children, getting caught up in this world where virtual relationships are more important than real ones. A large part of modern innovation consists of tricking existing human instincts to get people to buy things or do things they wouldn't otherwise do, and sometimes I feel like the generation that perfects virtual reality will be the last one, since it's so addictive and can offer plausible substitutes for reality that are far more sophisticated than most of what previous generations could ever dream of (at least outside of narcotics). The smooth, transparent writing style helped make the story even more plausible, so if you are more pro-Internet than I am you'll probably like it even more. The book was short but sweet, and won the 2011 Hugo Award for Best Novella. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
A thought-provoking short novel about raising artificial intelligence (something like advanced forms of digital pets that used to be the rage), which raises a lot of intriguing questions but is rather short on characterization and plot. What is the best way to evolve an AI? What are the ethical ramifications of the relationship between the AI and the person who raises it? Is the AI like a pet? A child? Is putting an AI in permanent stasis ethical? What about when the AI wants full personhood--does it deserve that? More questions than answers at this point. ( )
  sturlington | Feb 3, 2021 |
I generally don't like short works, they don't develop anything interesting. But I think Ted Chiang is a master of shorter works; so far, all two of his works that I have read, one a novelette and one a novella have been excellent. His works are never what one would call exuberant; they are not celebrations of anything, nor do they have exciting battles, instead they leave one w/ lots of difficult questions. This one is no exception.

The illustrations were of robots in various stages of development, and of humans interacting with them. They were symbolic but realistic, and entirely appropriate to the story. ( )
  themulhern | Oct 17, 2020 |
Read as part of a story collection. Good story about why there is no alternative to experience and emotions to build real intelligent being. ( )
  madhukaraphatak | Aug 12, 2020 |
There was never any question about whether or not I'd like this story, considering it's about evolving AI. That's a topic I will always read fiction about. And I liked this one particularly because of the discussions of what happens when your AI become people-ish enough that they want to be able to make their own decisions? Interesting too was that the AIs in this story were treating like very intelligent animals or children, considered by their owners to be self-aware and deserving of respect as living beings but also maybe not mature enough to make their own decisions. ( )
  katebrarian | Jul 28, 2020 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Chiang, Tedprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pierce, ChristianCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Her name is Ana Alvarado, and she's having a bad day.
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The story of two people and the artificial intelligences they helped create, following them for more than a decade as they deal with the upgrades and obsolescence that are inevitable in the world of software. At the same time, it's an examination of the difference between processing power and intelligence, and of what it means to have a real relationship with an artificial entity.

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