Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Lifecycle of Software Objects, by Ted Chiang

Every time I see a Ted Chiang story online, I jump on it, and this is no exception. It is nominated for a Hugo award this year, so I read it with great anticipation.

The Lifecycle of Software Objects is basically an AI story. It's a very thorough study of how humans would relate to trainable software that matures. The "digients" are based on animal personalities, designed so that people would become attached to them. Most people put them aside when they're not convenient anymore, but some, including two of the designers, invest the kind of time and money one would spend on a child. The story weaves a complex romantic interest in as well.

Ted Chiang always has a bit of a dry, earnest style that has the realistic ring of a professional workplace conversation. That's a bit more extreme here, to the point where one wouldn't mind a bit more of an emotional investment. But the story is so complete and thorough that it's forgiven. Chiang isn't prolific, and one understands why when reading him--every passage seems to have had a full edit. I give this one 3 stars, and you'll learn something reading it

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