Monday, March 29, 2010

New Ted Chiang!

Folks, SubPress is publishing a new Ted Chiang novella.

The last time they did that, they gave is "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate".

This time, "The Lifecycle of Software Objects". This is all you need to know.

But, if you really need to know more (and you don't, the words "Ted" and "Chiang" are enough), here is the product description:
What’s the best way to create artificial intelligence? In 1950, Alan Turing wrote, “Many people think that a very abstract activity, like the playing of chess, would be best. It can also be maintained that it is best to provide the machine with the best sense organs that money can buy, and then teach it to understand and speak English. This process could follow the normal teaching of a child. Things would be pointed out and named, etc. Again I do not know what the right answer is, but I think both approaches should be tried.”

The first approach has been tried many times in both science fiction and reality. In this new novella, at over 30,000 words, his longest work to date, Ted Chiang offers a detailed imagining of how the second approach might work within the contemporary landscape of startup companies, massively-multiplayer online gaming, and open-source software. It’s a 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.
I don't know about you, but I'll be pre-ordering this one.


Neal Asher said...

Excellent -- love his stuff.

Chad Hull said...

I don't know how they manage to print material like this, but I'm glad they do. The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate is a favorite long/short story of mine.

That said, it's a steep asking price for 144 pages; though in Chiang's case I'm sure it's worth it.

Joe said...

Neal: Me, too.

Chad: SubPress does small press run, limited edition stuff with high quality materials and excellent production values.

So, besides producing a book of noticeably higher quality than most of what is in stores, SubPress editions are also collectors pieces.

I'm a big fan of what SubPress puts out, especially the novellas which are generally unavailable elsewhere, but I can see where the price tags are steep.

Liviu said...

It is a very good book - I would call it a short novel since it has both depth and story for it, but I did not think it quite on par with Chiang's best mostly because I dislike mundane sf and this one is the epitome of such with gaming platforms, migration of software, people's life in digital environments a la second life...

If you are a fan of such (online gaming, online second life...) you will probably love it and indeed it raises interesting questions, while the two main characters are well done, but I am a sense of wonder guy and mundane however well done will always come a distant second