Blindsight is a hard science fiction novel by Canadian writer Peter Watts , published by Tor Books in 2006. It garnered nominations for a Hugo Award for Best Novel , [2]was John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel , [3] And a Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel . [4] The novel follows a crew of astronauts sent out as the third wave, Following two series of probes, to Investigate a trans-Neptunian Kuiper belt comet dubbed ‘Burns-Caulfield’ that has-been found to be Transmitting an unidentified radio to signal An as-yet unknown destination elsewhere in the solar system, Followed by their first contact . The novel explores questions ofidentity , consciousness , free will , artificial intelligence , neurology , game theory as well as evolution and biology . Blindsight is available online under Creative Commons license . [5] Its sequel Echopraxia cam out in 2014. Artificial intelligence , neurology , game theory as well as evolution and biology . Blindsight is available online underCreative Commons license . [5] Its sequel Echopraxia cam out in 2014. Artificial intelligence , neurology , game theory as well as evolution and biology . Blindsight is available online under Creative Commons license . [5] Its sequel Echopraxia cam out in 2014.

Plot

In the year 2082, the fireflies, the burning in the Earth’s atmosphere, in a precise grid, while momentarily broadcasting across an immense portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, catching humanity off guard and alerting It to an undeniable extraterrestrial presence. It is suspected that the whole planet has been surveyed in one effective sweep. Despite the magnitude of this ‘Firefall’, human politics soon return to normal.

Years afterwards, a comet-surveying satellite stumbles across a radio transmission originating from a comet, subsequently named ‘Burns-Caulfield’. This tight-beam broadcast is directed to an unknown location and in fact does not intersect the Earth at any point. As this is the first opportunity to learn more about the extraterrestrials, three waves of ships are sent out: the first being white light probes shot out for an as-soon-as-possible, flyby of the comet, Then a wave of Heavier goal better- Equipped probes, and finally a manned ship, the Theseus .

Theseus is propelled by an antimatter reactor and captained by an artificial intelligence . It carries a crew of five cutting-edge transhuman hyper-specialists of which one is a genetically-reincarnated vampire and acts as the nominal mission commander. While the crew is in hibernation en route, the just-arrived second wave of probes begins a compounded radar scan of the subsurface of Burns-Caulfield, but this cause causes the self-destruct object. Theseus is re-routed mid-flight to the new-found destination of the signal: a previously undetected gas-deep giant in the Oort Cloud , dubbed ‘Big Ben’.

The crew wakes from hibernation while the Theseus closes on Big Ben. They discover a giant, concealed object in the vicinity, and assume it to be a vessel of some kind. As soon as the Theseus uncloaks the vessel, it is immediately hailed over radio and, in a range of languages ​​varying from English to Chinese, identified itself as ‘Rorschach’. The crew determines that Rorschach must have learned Human languages ​​by eavesdropping on comm-chatter since its arrival, sometime after the Broadcast Age began. Over the course of a few days many questions and answers are exchanged by both parties. Eventually Susan James, the linguist, determines that ‘Rorschach’ does not really understand what either party is actually saying .

Theseus probes Rorschach and finds it to have hollow sections, some with atmosphere, but all extremely lethal: Some “killing you instantly” and others “killing you in a matter of hours”. Since then, the Rorschach family has been involved in a variety of activities, including: They discover the presence of highly evasive, fast-moving 9-legged organisms dubbed ‘Scramblers’, of which they kill one and successfully abduct two for study. The ‘Scramblers’ are more intelligent than human beings,

The crew explores questions of identity, the nature, utility and interdependence of intelligence and consciousness. They theorize that humanity could be an unusual offshoot of evolution, wasting bodily and economic resources on the self-aware ego. Things escalate and Theseus eventually decides to sacrifice itself and its crews using its antimatter payload to eliminate Rorschach. One crew member is shot off inside an escape vessel in a decades-long fall back to Earth to relay the crucial information amassed back to humanity. As he falls back towards the inner solar system, he hears radio broadcasts which suggest that the vampires have revolted and may be exterminating baseline humanity.

Characters

Crew of the Theseus 

  • Siri Keeton is the narrator and main protagonist. Debilitating brain surgery for medical purposes has cut him off from his own emotional life and made him a talented “synthesist”, adept at reading others’ intentions with the aid of cybernetics. He is assigned to these missions to interpret the activities of Mission Control on Earth. He comes to realize that the other crew members resent him for his role, seeing him as nosy surveillance .
  • Major Amanda Bates is a combat specialist, controlling an army of robotic “grunts”.
  • Isaac Szpindel is the primary biologist and physician. He is in love with Michelle, one of the Gang’s personalities.
  • Jukka Sarasti is a vampire and the nominal crew (and frightening) leader. As a predator from the Pleistocene , it is alleged to be far smarter than baseline humans. Sarasti has actually led the crew.
  • The Gang is a distinct personality in the mind of a woman, the ship’s linguist. They are tasked with communicating with the aliens, if possible. A single personality “surfaces” to take control of their body at any given time. The active personality reveals itself through a change in tone and posture. These personalities express offense when referred to as ” alters “. The personalities are:
    • Susan James , whom the others refer to as “Mom”. She is the “original” personality.
    • Michelle is a shy, quiet, synaesthetic woman who is romantically involved with Szpindel.
    • Sascha is harsher and more overtly hostile towards Siri.
    • Cruncher , a male, rarely used for James.
  • Robert Cunningham , Szpindel’s backup, is a biologist / physician.
  • The Captain is the ship’s artificial intelligence. Throughout the story, the Captain remains inscrutable and mysterious, generally communicating directly with Sarasti.

People on Earth

  • Robert Paglino , Siri’s childhood best friend.
  • Chelsea , Siri’s ex-girlfriend. A professional tweaker of human personalities.
  • Helen Keeton , Siri’s mother, whose consciousness has been connected, brain in a vat style, to a virtual utopia called “Heaven”. As a parent, she traumatized Siri with emotional demands and intrusiveness into her private life.
  • Jim Moore is Siri’s father, a colonel involved with planetary defense.

Major themes

Consciousness

The exploration of consciousness is the central thematic element of Blindsight . [6] [7] [8] The title of the novel refers to the condition blindsight , in which vision is non-functional in the conscious brain but remains useful to non-conscious action. [9] Other conditions, such as Cotard delusion and Anton-Babinski syndrome , are used to illustrate differences from the usual assumptions about conscious experience. [9] The novel raises questions about the essential character of consciousness. Is the interior experience of consciousness necessary, Or is it externally observed behavior the sole determining characteristic of conscious experience? [6] [7] [9]Is an interior emotional experience necessary for empathy, or is empathic behavior sufficient to possess empathy? [9] [10] Related to this issue is a plot element near the climax of the story, in which the vampire captain is revealed to have been controlled by the ship’s artificial intelligence for the entirety of the novel. [9] [11] In which the vampire captain is revealed to have been controlled by the ship’s artificial intelligence for the entirety of the novel. [9] [11] In which the vampire captain is revealed to have been controlled by the ship’s artificial intelligence for the entirety of the novel. [9] [11]

Philosopher John Searle ‘s Chinese room as an experiment in the understanding of the tension between the notions of consciousness and the consciousness of the emergent result of merely functional non – introspective components. [6] [9] [11] Blindsight contributes to this debate by implying that some aspects of consciousness are empirically detectable. [7] SPECIFICALLY, the novel supposed That consciousness is Necessary for Both aesthetic appreciation [7] [8] [10] and for effective communication. [7] However, for humanity, An evolutionary dead end. [6] [9] [10] [11] That is, consciousness may have been naturally selected as a solution for the challenges of a specific place in space and time, but a complication is encountered. [7]

The alien creatures encountered by the crew of the Theseus themselves lack consciousness. [6] [7] [10] [12] The necessity of consciousness for effective communication is illustrated by a passage of the novel in which the linguist realizes that the alien creatures can not be, in fact, conscious because of their lack of Semantic understanding:

“Tell me more about your cousins,” Rorschach feels.
“Our cousins ​​lie about the family tree,” Sascha replied, “with nieces and nephews and Neanderthals. We do not like annoying cousins.”
“We’d like to know about this tree.”
Sascha muted the channel and gave us a look that said Could it be any more obvious? “It could not have parsed that.” There were three linguistic ambiguities in there.
“Well, it asked for clarification,” Bates pointed out.
“Different thing entirely.” [13]

The notion that these aliens could lack consciousness and possess intelligence is linked to the idea that some humans could also have diminished consciousness and remain outwardly functional. [7] [8] This idea is similar to the concept of philosophical zombie , as it is understood in philosophy of mind . Blindsight supposes that sociopaths might be a manifestation of this same phenomenon, [7] [9] and the demands of corporate environments might be environmental factors causing some part of humanity to evolve towards becoming philosophical zombies. [7] [10]

Transhumanism

Blindsight also explores the implications of a transhuman future. [7] [11] [12] Within the novel, humans no follow engages in sex with other humans for pleasure, INSTEAD choosing to use virtual reality to find Idealized and submissive partners, [7] And Many choose to Withdraw from reality Entirely by Living in constructed virtual worlds, referred to as “Heaven”. [7] [11] Vampires are predators from humanity’s distant past, resurrected through recovered DNA , and live among the humans of the late 21st century. [6] [9] [11] [12] These vampires operate with diminished feelings as compared to the high-functional autism with comparable dysfunction in affect and speech, but have the advantage of multiple simultaneous thoughts occurring in parallel within their minds. [11] Enhanced pattern-matching skills.

Reception

Carl Hayes, in his review for Booklist , wrote: “Watts packs in enough tantalizing ideas for a score of novels while spinning new twists on every edge-edge pattern from virtual reality to extraterrestrial biology.” [14] Kirkus Reviews said about the book: “Watts carries several complications too many, but present nonetheless a search, disconcerting, challenging, sometimes piercing inquisition.” [15] Jackie Cassida in her review for Library Journal wrote: “Watts continues to challenge readers with his imaginative plots and superb storytelling.” [16] Publishers Weekly wrote: “Watts puts a terrifying and original spin on the familiar alien contact story.”

Elizabeth Bear , an award-winning author in science fiction field, declared:

It’s my opinion that Peter Watts’s Blindsight is the best science fiction novel of the first decade of this millennium – and I say that’s who’s left unconvinced of all the ramifications of its central argument. Watts is one of the crown princes of science fiction’s most difficult subgenre: his work is rigorous, unsentimental, and full of brilliant little moments of synthesis that make a nerd’s brain light up like a pinball machine. But he’s also a poet – a damned fine writer on a sentence level … [18]

See also

  • Thomas Metzinger ‘s Being No One [19]
  • Oliver Sacks ‘ s The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat [20]

References

  1. Jump up^ “Blindsight: The Lost Covers” . Retrieved 1 January 2013 .
  2. Jump up^ “Hugo Nominees (press release)” . Archived from the original on 3 October 2008 . Retrieved 3 October 2008 .
  3. Jump up^ “Campbell Award Winners & Nominees” . Worlds Without End . Retrieved 23 December 2011 .
  4. Jump up^ “Locus SF Award Winners & Nominees” . Worlds Without End . Retrieved 23 December 2011 .
  5. Jump up^ http://www.rifters.com/real/Blindsight.htm#CC
  6. ^ Jump up to:f McGrath, Martin (10 March 2011). “Blindsight … Or” In a Chinese Room, not far from the loo ” ” . Archived from the original on 8 October 2014 . Retrieved 8 October 2014 .
  7. ^ Jump up to:m Shaviro, Steven (27 October 2006). “Blindsight” . Archived from the original on 8 October 2014 . Retrieved 8 October 2014 .
  8. ^ Jump up to:c Shaviro, Steven. “Consequences of Panpsychism” (PDF) : 14 . Retrieved 8 October 2014 .
  9. ^ Jump up to:i “Transcript Podcast 2:” Blindsight “by Peter Watts” . Science Fiction First. Archived from the original on 15 October 2014 . Retrieved 8 October 2014 .
  10. ^ Jump up to:e Shaviro, Steven (25 August 2014). “Ferociously Intellectual Pulp Writing” . Archived from the original on 8 October 2014 . Retrieved 8 October 2014 .
  11. ^ Jump up to:g Elber-Aviram, Hadas. “Visions of Humanity between the Posthuman and the Non-Human” (PDF) . Imachine: There is No I in Meme : 4-5 . Retrieved 8 October2014 .
  12. ^ Jump up to:c Nirshberg, Greg (7 December 2010). “Book Review – Blindsight by Peter Watts”. Archived from the original on 8 October 2014 . Retrieved 8 October 2014 .
  13. Jump up^ Watts, Peter (3 October 2006). Blindsight . Tor Books. p. 94. ISBN  978-0-7653-1218-1 .
  14. Jump up^ Hays, Carl (1 October 2006). “Blindsight”. Booklist . 103 (3): 45. ISSN  0006-7385 .
  15. Jump up^ “BLINDSIGHT”. Kirkus Reviews . 74 (16): 816. 15 August 2006. ISSN  0042-6598 .
  16. Jump up^ Cassada, Jackie (15 October 2006). “Blindsight”. Library Journal . 131 (17): 55. ISSN  0363-0277 .
  17. Jump up^ Blindsight (28 August 2006). “Blindsight”. Publishers Weekly . 253 (34): 36. ISSN  0000-0019 .
  18. Jump up^ Bear, Elizabeth (3 March 2011). “Best SFF Novels of the Decade: An Appreciation ofBlindsight ” . Tor.com . Retrieved 10 July 2014 .
  19. Jump up^ “Many of the syndromes and diseases dropped into Blindsight I first encountered in Metzinger’s book. http://www.rifters.com/real/Blindsight.htm
  20. Jump up^ “And of course, Oliver Saks [sic] was sending us memos from the edge of consciousness long before consciousness even had a bandwagon to jump on.” http://www.rifters.com/real/Blindsight.htm

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