Things I Read Recently

I’ve made some headway into my reading list over the past few weeks. Actually,
calling it a “reading list” evokes the wrong concept; it’s more like a
constantly re-ordering queue of effectively infinite reading material that is
pitiably reduced over time. But anyway, here’s some of the things I came
across:

Consider Phlebas, by Ian M. Banks

One of the better novels in the Culture series, Consider Phlebas at first
reminded me of the Star Trek universe but quickly distinguished itself as a
brutally efficient story that hammers your brain with its sheer scale. The
crucial point of interest for me was the Culture itself, which is a … hmm…
galactic, highly individualistic, post-scarcity conglomeration of various
species, mediated/managed by ridiculously intelligent AI “Minds.” Their
politics could be described as “death is bad, life is good; pain is bad,
pleasure is good,” with a liberal helping of anarchism. They’re at war with
the Idirans, who instead essentially believe that everything has its place,
and want to impose a certain order on the universe. The novel revolves around
this central conflict and follows an Idiran mercenary, neatly threading a
focused story with a small cast through a large canvas spanning many unique
situations. Definitely a satisfying read.

Friendship Is Optimal: Caelum Est Conterrens, by Chatoyance

Leave your cached response that everything related to My Little Pony is
juvenile/stupid at the door. This fiction is about what it really means to
upload to a virtual existence. There’s few works that are so terrifyingly
awesome and genuinely scary that they get you to “WTF!” repeatedly on the same
page, but this Lovecraftian fic will do it. Beware memetic hazard! You’ll be
diving straight into strong AI’s, optimization processes, and virtual life.
Link.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by Eliezer Yudkowsky

HPMOR is an in-progress fan fiction based in the Harry Potter universe in
which Petunia married an Oxford professor and Harry grew up on science and
science fiction. It’s over at hpmor.com. GO READ IT.


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