Book Review: The Age of Em: Work, Love, and Life when Robots Rule the Earth by Robin Hanson

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The Age of Em: Work, Love, and Life when Robots Rule the Earth by Robin Hanson – Available Here

You want to know how to get me to hate you? Tell me about how shitty science fiction is at predicting the future and then smugly espousing just how much more right you are than anyone else. At that point, I don’t care if you are right, you’re still an asshole who wants to burn the rest of the world to the ground so you can build a lean-to and declare that you own the tallest building in the world. To say the future is knowable and then go on to argue the stories that engage with it as a sub-par medium for exploring it is asinine.

To quote Chinese Science Fiction writer Xia Jia who in turn borrowed the words of Gilles Deleuze, Science Fiction “is a literature always in the state of becoming, a literature that is born on the frontier—the frontier between the known and unknown, magic and science, dream and reality, self and other, present and future.” These stories Hanson seems so keen on throwing under the bus are the future, they are the stories, the ideas that leverage the minds of generations to create. To dismiss that is to forget or legitimately not know what it is to be human. We are not creatures of some divine logic or coherent want, and despite the myriad of strange and questionable assumptions in this book is among the most damning.

Hanson can try and legitimize this book as better, more thought out, but his knowing is no better than yours, it is only different. His wielding of the past to inform the future (a necessity that he overtly separates from the future) is grossly limited and never gets past the western front. His passion isn’t the tech available today or in the future, it is in the incorporeal fetish of an emulated human mind. There is a decent science fiction book in here, but it is not a science future. It fiats uniformity until it doesn’t, skips some rather glaring faults in the entire notion of even getting an emulated person into existence (E.g. wouldn’t it just be easier to strip emulated minds of any emotional core and wield them as bleeding edge processing units, and if we didn’t bother to do that who would fight for them (or listen) to demands for them to be marked as human? Kinda seems like it would just allow a new kind of slavery).

At one point, after literally separating himself from all pasts (fiction and non), that he is not an iconoclast. All I can say is: I read his biography on his website and he can fuck right off with all of that. It directly states that he takes the piss out of those who hold a political ideology. His very existence seems pegged to give him the leeway to criticize while being able to say, “I’m not saying I’m right,” while secretly mumbling, “You’re just wrong”.

This is a book whose very existence seems to be an act of ego. It is there so that if, for some god forsaken reason he proves correct, he can point to his plasticy paper volume and say, “Ah-ha!”  Either that or it’s a book designed and written by a man who wanted to write a novel, realized he couldn’t and with the grace of an Adderall-soaked gibbon forged the closest thing he could come to it.

About Tietsu

Someday the words that fill my brain will fill cheap paperback books. Until then, I will collect them here.
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