The Freeze-Frame Revolution: mutineers unstuck in time, strung out across an aeon
Peter Watts (previously) is a brilliant bastard of a science fiction writer, whose grim scenarios are matched by their scientific speculation; in his latest, a novella called The Freeze-Frame Revolution, Watts imagines a mutiny that stretches out across aeons, fought against a seemingly omnipotent AI.
Sixty million years ago, the Earth launched the Eriphora to explore the galaxy: a planetoid space-ship with conventional thrusters and all the equipment necessary to robotically construct hyperspace gateways that let it leap through unimaginable distances, stringing out a transport system behind it that those who follow can exploit to skip across space like a thrown stone.
The Eri is piloted by the Chimp, a dumb AI that is just smart enough to create and then reabsorb the manufactories that create the gate out of the planets it harvests in each system. The Chimp has to be pretty dumb, because any AI smart enough to solve all possible problems would probably go nuts, or at least decide that, after a few million years, it didn't have to follow the orders its creators set in motion all those aeons ago.
So to help the Chimp cope with the unexpected, the Eri has 30,000 humans in cold sleep in its holds. Every few thousand years, these humans are awakened, in rotations, to help the Chimp manage complexity and ambiguity, and then they are put back into their cold sleep, only a few weeks or months older, to rest for another millennium or two. At this rate, the crew of the Eri might live to see the end of time itself.
But that's only if the Chimp lets them live. It's becoming increasingly apparent that the Chimp is subject to long-term orders even it doesn't know about or understand, and that these orders include liquidating the human crew in stages, as the mission nears its end. With bare millions of years remaining, the crew decides to mutiny, planning their rebellion in the Chimp's blind-spots, exploiting the stupidity of its AI, faking their deaths and stealing cold-sleep pods, hunting for the Chimp's data-center, which moves to a new spot every millennium or two.
It's a mind-bending premise, and Watt's (anti)hero, Sunday Ahzmundin is well-chosen, as the Chimp's closest friend and confidante onboard -- Sunday's reluctant participation in the mutiny makes for a gripping read and a beautiful narrative excuse for a tour of Watts's mindbending scenario.
This is definitely vintage Watts, from the Elder Gods the Eri discovers as it traverses the wormholes it creates to the imaginative tortures the mutineers use to punish those who betray the rebellion. It's outstanding, exciting, terrifying, and will keep you guessing and reading to the last page.
The Freeze-Frame Revolution [Peter Watts/Tachyon]
Leafcutter Designs of Oakland, California now has adorable mini metal mailboxes ($18 each) made to stuff full of their tiny letters and packages. Wee key included. You may already know that Leafcutter’s founder Lea Redmond is behind the popular World’s Smallest Post Service. This mailbox “bank” is perfect for sending tiny mail within your household, […]
Small Massachusetts town decides to spend $1.4m building its own fiber, rather than paying Comcast $500K for shitty broadband
Comcast offered to get internet service to (96% of) the good people of Charlemont, Mass in exchange for a $462,123 subsidy; instead, the town of 1300 voted to reject the offer and spend $1.4M to build their own super-fast fiber network.
Rocky Bergen creates gorgeous, downloadable papercraft models of retro PCs, from the Commodore 64 to the Apple ][+ to the Amstrad, with different screens to print celebrating classic 8-bit games, and accessories like tiny floppies in tiny paper sleeves. As Waxy points out, these would make stunning Christmas ornaments.
Businesses of any size continue to use PDFs despite – and perhaps because of – their stubborn resistance to simple editing. But for those who need a little flexibility on their documentation, the search is over for alternative software. PDF Expert for Mac is the catch-all solution for wrangling those PDFs, and it’s available at […]
When it comes to tech, smaller is better, and these items fit the bill both in terms of size and price. We’ve rounded up our favorite stocking-ready gadgets, most of which are already on sale – and you can take an additional 15% off any of them with the special code MERRY15. iPM 3-in-1 Fast […]
So you’ve got a good eye for pictures? We’ve got a good eye for deals. And this holiday, there are some solid deals out there for photographers. Check out some of our favorite recent discounts on gear, software, and e-learning for photogs of any experience. Gadgets RevolCam: The Multi-Lens Photo Revolution for Smartphones This […]