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The Ware Tetrology, by Rudy Rucker August 23, 2011

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brain, Brilliant words, Mutants, Uncategorizable.
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Sometimes I am aghast at how little I can express some things, like my appreciation of this set of novels by CSUSJ computer science professor Rudy Rucker.  Funny, complex, mystic, psychedelic and yet down-to-earth are all descriptions that apply to this work equally.  Surreal works pretty well here, too.

The first book, Software, deals with Cobb Anderson, a retired computer scientist dying of a cheap knock-off heart wearing out, who is offered immortality by robots living on the moon (they revere him as the programmer who gave them sentience and independence from the Three Laws).  Since he did that, however, he’s considered a traitor to the human race and has police problems, which forms part of the (non-philosophical) plot.  The other part is the method of immortality: chop up his brain and encode it digitally.  The robots don’t mention this aspect of it, since they themselves get copied over to new bodies frequently and don’t see it as frightening in any way.  Anderson recognizes that consciousness is software plus the body to put it in…the robots give him a robot body.

This novel has some really surreal bits in it, notably that Florida is a reservation for elderly baby boomers (much like today) and is pretty much a squalid hell-hole for anything more than subsistence.

The second book, Wetware, is largely about the efforts of robots on the moon to incarnate robot consciousness into meat bodies on Earth, a plan which goes badly awry and results in the extermination of the robots by a human-engineered chipmold which kills their silicon chips…but infests the plastics they use to communicate with and creates a different sentient race (“moldies”).  Interesting action and all that, and subtle philosophical stuff (what is consciousness, what is evolution)—did I mention Rucker is the great-great-great-grandson of Hegel?

The third book, Freeware, concerns alien invasion by radio waves, which encode the information for personality and embodiment.  Some of the aliens are benign…others not so much.  I had the notion while reading this book that alien signals are being sent to Earth all the time, but we have trouble detecting and interpreting neutrino streams (I was  very sunburned and had a little whiskey.  This sort of thing doesn’t happen that often, I swear).

The fourth book, Realware, concerns the benign aliens’ gift to humanity—basically, anything anyone wants—and the effects on primitives of sufficiently advanced technology.  This is sort of the end of all of this train of thought as well, since it introduces a four-dimensional god of sorts which takes Cobb Anderson (now a “moldie”) into this higher dimension in a mystical kind of way.  I’m not sure I consider this lame or not;  people sort of run out of ideas when confronting infinity as a concept (see also “God”, elsewhere—in fact, anywhere else).  This is hardly an uncommon problem; in one of the dialogues of Plato Socrates, when asked to describe love stops being logical and clear and gets all mystic and shit.  When the greatest mind of his time has trouble with this, why shouldn’t everyone else?

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