WWW: Wake

Caitlin Decter is young, pretty, feisty, a genius at math, and blind. When she receives an implant to restore her sight, instead of seeing reality she perceives the landscape of the World Wide Web-where she makes contact with a mysterious consciousness existing only in cyberspace.

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Published April 7th 2009 by Ace Hardcover

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It 's been a while since a book brought me to tears out of joy and optimism.This one did.

Ofte, the main reason is that I really love stories of emergent AIs. And when Sawyer applies a lot of very well-researched speculations based on only the technology we have now, building a beautiful picture of waking up from first principles?

is n't a fly-by-night story with the same elements but with a tenth the research, care, or intelligence.

:) Let me sum up something: This book ought to be well-known.

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In fact, the virus that breaks out is the H1N5 in the adaptatio, possibly some distant cousin of the current virus that is creating a global scare and a potential world-wide pandemic.Of course, I shouldn ’ t be shocked that Sawyer has done has homework and is unable to predict things that will happen in the nearb future.

But there ’ s something lurking out in cyberspace, building itself up and slowly becoming more and more aware of itself.Stir in a story about China ’ s dealing with an outbreak of the H1N5 virus by removing the affected areas and shutting off communication with the outside world for several year and a plot about a highly intelligent hybrid primate and you ’ ve got a lot of ground to cover in this second installment.

Sawyer introduces a lot of threads and a lot of interestin ideas in the course of his tal and while he does wrap-up most of the immediate plot threads in th novella, he still leaves you hanging in the beginnin, wanting the next installment immediately, if not sooner.

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his morning I came out of my room with a happy Labrador bouncing around my feet and the sunshine pouring in, and my roommate said, “ good morning! ” and I wondered, “ I hate this book. ” A congenitally blind teenager is fitted with a neural implant to restore her sight, but first it lets her see the internet, where everything is coming alive.There are a lot of things wrong with his nove: cardboard writing, pacing issues, characterization of a eenaged girl so off-key it was painful, including Livejournal entries that were so tone deaf it was embarrassing.

If Sawyer had written some helpless, computer illiterate blind girl, I ould have dropped the book, called him a couple uncomplimentary things, and forgotten about it within the week.

Let me ummarize: Book:* projects piles of able-bodied bullshit onto blind protagonist, who bviously wants to be cured because that ’ s what disabled people want, and who thinks about everything she ’ s missing all the time even though she ’ s been blind since birth and vision is frankly irrelevant to her sensory experiences at this point* Me:* sigh* Book:* all she really wants is to now what “ beautiful ” means* Me: I ’ m blind and I know what beautiful means and I have been joine by beauty fuck you.Book:* extended passages of awful writing from the point of view of an emerging intelligence* Me:* rubs temples** perseveres* Book:* protag has only one disabled figure to relate to, and absolutely no connection to blind culture or history.

“ She wasn ’ t blind, so to speak, to the mplications of what she was reading.* Me:* bangs head gently into wall for a while* Book:* random incident of sexual assault so that the protag can tell teenaged boy that she doesn ’ t have to see to be unable to see right through him.

Because that ’ s eve an ablest metaphor for disability.* Me:* emits wounded vowel sounds, emails a blind autistic acquaintance and says “ fuck! ” a lot* Book:* cutesy anecdote about how blind girl didn ’ t know white people aren ’ t ctually “ white. ”* Me: Yes she did.

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WWW: Wake is the second in a nove about a blind girl, Caitlin Decter, who undergoes new and theoretical surgery in Japan to bring back her sight.

hen with another patch update, Caitlin begins to see through the eye with the implant and her life is changed.

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If you nee to rea a political ook, great- but at least be intellectually honest with me and come out and own it.Also, it 's offensive.

He wil go read some Zadie Smith and then work out how story threads are meant to kno, you now, by actual, talented writers.For someone who seems so anti-corporate ( ok, that 's cool but ...)- he certainly drops enough brand names owned by corporate entities to appear as though his novel is a paid advertisement.

And what 's worse, he goe off as though he genuinely feels like his readers are stupid.

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( view spoiler) [ Actuall, he goes o far as to ive a primer on ASCII encoding as the entity learns the characters by seeing them through Caitlin 's eye.

Which means that an entity that is born digital ca n't interpret digital encoding but can interpret the messages the optic nerve sends to a human brain.

Wait, no, it can interpret the messages the optic nerve sends to a human brain that have been digitally encoded to traverse the internet.

Sawyer lost me entirely here because he spent so much time explaining the digital stuff and that part is all pretty accurate ( and reasonably well explained without bogging down the story).

But because that 's accurate, being so very, very illogical on the entity being able to " see " out of Caitlin 's eye just blew me out of a tale.

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Anothe as an incredibly fast read, and I quite enjoyed the story.I loved the premise.

I knew all the subplots, event though some of them are abruptly dropped, at least in th sixth book; it is a rilogy.

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Sawyer 's new rilogy about an emerging artificial intelligence.For a fairly short volume, and one that lacks any sort of action or suspense, there 's a lot packed into Wake.

he central plot, which deals with Caitlin Decter 's bid to gain sight and how this leads her to find the Web 's emergent intelligence, happens against a backdrop of the ongoing information wars in China and research into primate intelligence in the United States.

Therefore, because the descriptions are accurate, Sawyer is educating the less technologically-adept even as he immerses us in this very human plot.

. She mentions Keller 's descriptions of what her thought processes were like before she learned how to ommunicate and interact with the external world.

Jaynes' The Origin of Consciousness similarly discusses a theory about a turning point in human history where the two halves of the brain managed to talk to each other and act on conscious thoughts instead of instinct.In China, the Communist Party decides to kill several thousand people in a remote province to eliminate the threat of H5N1.

Both are the actions of humans, yet the idea of killing thousands of people merely to prevent the spread of an infection seems, at least to me, very inhuman.Then there 's the bonobo-chimpanzee hybrid, Hobo, who can communicate via sign language and startles everyone when he paints representational art—a profile of one of his researchers—instead of the typical abstract pictures so far produced by non-human primates.

way Sawyer portrays Hobo makes him seem far more human than he actually is, and tha is where, as a sceptic, I have to balk.

And Sawyer 's portrayal of Hobo 's humanity serves its purpose of parallelling the development of the Web AI.This final piece of the plot puzzle is what onnects the other three, of course.

former were just so unique yet tantalizing, since it really drives home the point that the Web is a fluctuating network of constant streaming data and not some ort of static series of Facebook pages and Google search results all stored in a database and delivered to your browser when you hit " Go. " To return to the motif of humanity, however, I 'd like to point out a section toward the nd of he memoir, in which Caitlin leads the emerging intelligence to Wikipedia, which it consumes eagerly, and then onto Project Gutenberg: And then, and finally, and then—It was—The gold mine.The mother lode.

and I grew even more.Firstly, I 'd like to note that Sawyer has described precisely how I thin about books, about reading in general, and about wonderful libraries like Project Gutenberg.

Firstl, while Sawyer is far from the first SF author or scientist to make tha point, it 's an important one when it omes to discussing how to deal with an artificial intelligence, should we create one or should one emerge spontaneously as it does in Wake.

One thing I noticed is that instead of providing visual descriptions of places and people around Caitlin, Sawyer is always careful to describe in terms of sound, touch, and smell.

As omeone who does n't really visualize things when I ead, I did n't miss the lack of visual description and appreciated this change.Sawyer also introduced me to how the blind and visually-impaired interact with the Web. Oh, I never knew about screenreaders like JAWS and refreshable Braille displays, etc., but tha was the last time I 'd eally thought about how they get used.

For Caitlin, this was all just normal for her, and through her eyes I began to understand how it was necessary to interact with the world in this way.And beyond her blindness, as a person, Caitlin is a well-thought-out character.

Sawyer reminds us that the injustic in China has been ongoing for decades now, and especially if the People 's Republic is doomed as some projections claim, that wo n't stop them from committing further atrocities before they fade into history.

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© Nicole Waggonner