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The Last Firewall (Singularity Series Book 3) Kindle Edition
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The book is set in 2035, when humans share the planet with a large and growing population of artificial intelligences. Good behaviour by the AIs is ensured by an EBay-style "currency" of reputation: well-behaved AIs get access to more computational capacity, bandwidth, and other privileges; bad behaviour begets bad reputation, which leads to downgrading.
Many of the humans have implants, which enable them to interact directly with the net and with each other. Like any other significant technology, these implants have both good and bad outcomes. They improve communication, and enhance sex (Hertling plays with sex for the first time in this book - perhaps a sign of his growing confidence as a writer) but they also introduce new ways for people to be controlled and harmed.
Hertling has clearly put a great deal of thought into what the future will be like, and into the crucial question of how humanity can survive the potential arrival of super-intelligence. He seems to view the reputational currency idea as a stop-gap, with brain-computer interfaces as the full solution. The switch into first person narrative for one of the characters towards the end feels like a strong assertion of that view.
The trilogy is thought-provoking and great fun, and also a terrific contribution to the literature which you should read if you are interested in the potential arrival of conscious machines and super-intelligence. And if you aren’t interested in that yet, then come out from under your rock: this stuff is important!
Like all good storytellers one starts off with a storyline, which quickly develops into many storylines, one of which appears as the main one. An enjoyable read and I will probably be buying the others that William Hertling has written. I like his style.
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