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Exhalation This is a collection of 9 short stories from author Ted Chiang I was less impressed by this collection than the previous one I read, The Story of Your Life Several sounded like minor Black Mirror episodes, others were just not that plausible or interesting I think my favorite was the first one with the time portals Not sure I am even up to analyzing each story here There are some interesting ideas, but overall I found this collection wanting and hardly as good as, for example, the magical P This is a collection of 9 short stories from author Ted Chiang I was less impressed by this collection than the previous one I read, The Story of Your Life Several sounded like minor Black Mirror episodes, others were just not that plausible or interesting I think my favorite was the first one with the time portals Not sure I am even up to analyzing each story here There are some interesting ideas, but overall I found this collection wanting and hardly as good as, for example, the magical Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu.Pprize.com had this one in their Pulitzer 2020 prediction list, but I am not buying it For my money, of the 4 candidates I read so far, Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips is still the leader On to The Topeka School hoping to beimpressed.My List of 2020 Pulitzer Candidates blog about the 2020 Pulitzer All said, Chiang s new collection rocks I ve read a good number of these in other places, but it doesn t diminish my enjoyment I m referencing the stories I liked the most.The Merchant and the Alchemist s Gate 1001 Nights meets fixed timeline time travel Easily one of my favorites.Exhalation A rather interesting logical breakdown of universal principles from the PoV of a robot race.The Lifecycle of Software Objects Novella, and easily the most wrenching, exploratory of the lot Touch All said, Chiang s new collection rocks I ve read a good number of these in other places, but it doesn t diminish my enjoyment I m referencing the stories I liked the most.The Merchant and the Alchemist s Gate 1001 Nights meets fixed timeline time travel Easily one of my favorites.Exhalation A rather interesting logical breakdown of universal principles from the PoV of a robot race.The Lifecycle of Software Objects Novella, and easily the most wrenching, exploratory of the lot Touches not only on artificial life and AI, but the same kind of feelings we might have for autistic children and trying to save Zoos For pretty much the same reasons And I got rather invested in this I can see it becoming a problem in our future.Dacey s Patent Automatic Nanny So cool A mix of our recentish Science History and a very plausible alternate past, part psychology, part oh, crap, we definitely could have done this to ourselves.The Great Silence A Fermi gut punch.Omphalos A great reversal of an alternate reality, where proof of god s intervention, creation, is everywhere, but scientists come to a startlingly different conclusion Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom Another novella, and fascinating as hell Part self help group, part scam, and all focusing on the nature of alternate reality informational crosstalk I m really surprised at how well this one worked for me I keep noticing how much Chiang loves to mess with our understanding of our basic reality It s a Thing A great Thing How does it compare to the previous collection Neither better nor worse, because it is all him Quality, a lot of exploration in different ways, but always reaching for the same high standard I loved it No complaints at all alternate cover for ISBN From an award winning science fiction writer whose short story The Story of Your Life was the basis for the Academy Award nominated movie Arrival , the long awaited new collection of stunningly original, humane, and already celebrated short storiesThis much anticipated second collection of stories is signature Ted Chiang, full of revelatory ideas and deeply sympathetic characters In The Merchant and the Alchemist s Gate, a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and the temptation of second chances In the epistolary Exhalation, an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications not just for his own people, but for all of reality And in The Lifecycle of Software Objects, a woman cares for an artificial intelligence over twenty years, elevating a faddish digital pet into what might be a true living being Also included are two brand new stories Omphalos and Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom In this fantastical and elegant collection, Ted Chiang wrestles with the oldest questions on earth What is the nature of the universe What does it mean to be human and ones that no one else has even imagined And, each in its own way, the stories prove that complex and thoughtful science fiction can rise to new heights of beauty, meaning, and compassion [EPUB] ✼ The End (The 30-Day Collective Book 1) ✿ Ellen A. Easton – 9facts.co.uk the long awaited new collection of stunningly original ➽ [Download] ✤ The Light Over London By Julia Kelly ➲ – 9facts.co.uk humane [Ebook] ➣ Cell By Robin Cook – 9facts.co.uk and already celebrated short storiesThis much anticipated second collection of stories is signature Ted Chiang ❰Download❯ ➺ Braving the Wilderness Author Brené Brown – 9facts.co.uk full of revelatory ideas and deeply sympathetic characters In The Merchant and the Alchemist s Gate [Ebook] ➣ Lightning / Midnight / The Bad Place By Dean Koontz – 9facts.co.uk a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and the temptation of second chances In the epistolary Exhalation ❴Read❵ ➳ A Cidade Das Trevas (Dean Koontzs Frankenstein, Author Dean Koontz – 9facts.co.uk an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications not just for his own people [BOOKS] ⚣ Iron Council (New Crobuzon, By China Miéville – 9facts.co.uk but for all of reality And in The Lifecycle of Software Objects [KINDLE] ❅ Big Magic By Elizabeth Gilbert – 9facts.co.uk a woman cares for an artificial intelligence over twenty years [BOOKS] ✭ Bloody Acquisitions (Fred, the Vampire Accountant, By Drew Hayes – 9facts.co.uk elevating a faddish digital pet into what might be a true living being Also included are two brand new stories Omphalos and Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom In this fantastical and elegant collection ❁ [EPUB] ✹ Dangerous By Amanda Quick ➚ – 9facts.co.uk Ted Chiang wrestles with the oldest questions on earth What is the nature of the universe What does it mean to be human and ones that no one else has even imagined And [Read] ➬ Succeed and Grow Rich through Persuasion Author Napoleon Hill – 9facts.co.uk each in its own way ➺ [Reading] ➼ Agile Software Requirements By Dean Leffingwell ➯ – 9facts.co.uk the stories prove that complex and thoughtful science fiction can rise to new heights of beauty ➠ [Epub] ➚ The Last Kids on Earth By Max Brallier ➪ – 9facts.co.uk meaning ❴Epub❵ ➞ Fusiliers Author Mark Urban – 9facts.co.uk and compassion Ted Chiang is the master of the short form His execution of short stories and novellas is nearly always flawless, the ideas are great, and his writing style is versatile This is a writer who has mastered his craft, and his infrequent offerings are well worth the wait.This is the second time I read his brilliant second collection, Exhalation, this time on the quest to read or reread this year s Hugo and Nebula nominees Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom, nominated for both, and Omphalos nom Ted Chiang is the master of the short form His execution of short stories and novellas is nearly always flawless, the ideas are great, and his writing style is versatile This is a writer who has mastered his craft, and his infrequent offerings are well worth the wait.This is the second time I read his brilliant second collection, Exhalation, this time on the quest to read or reread this year s Hugo and Nebula nominees Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom, nominated for both, and Omphalos nominated for Hugo for best novelette But Chiang s writing is just so good or at least perfect for my tastes that I ended up revisiting the entire collection I ll try to briefly touch on all of them Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom is one of the two novellas in this collection, and is a gem Here through a great SF idea Chiang explores the themes of moral choices and responsibility for those choices, as well as the conundrum of free will.A few decades prior the Prisms were invented devices whose activation splits the world into two parallel branches initially differing by a single choice or even a single photon and which for a while allow you to communicate with your paraself parallel world self in the branched off reality and see how your lives diverge based on the smallest of choices Two issues arise from this paraself communications through the Prisms.First isobvious If you manage to fare better than your paraself, your choices at or after the activation of the Prism are validated Pat on the back, moral superiority, the whole shebang But if your paraself fares better in life after your realities have diverged, this can lead to a serious self esteem and identity crisis as that self validation no longer applies Some people spiral down the guilt rabbitholes, blaming themselves and their actions for whatever makes their branch worse than the parallel branch No wonder that there are support groups for Prism usersI want to know whether my decisions matter Forget about murder that s not the kind of thing I m talking about But when I have a choice to do the right thing or the wrong thing, am I always choosing to do both in different branches Why should I bother being nice to other people, if every time I m also being a dick to themThe second issue issubtle Many eventually subscribe to the idea that by the nature of quantum mechanics and that infamous Schroedinger s cat our moral choices are meaningless because no matter what you do there s always another you in one of the many universes who makes an opposite choice So if one of your many paraselves is destined to pull the trigger or cheat a store clerk or kick a puppy then why the hell shouldn t it be youBut the question was, given that we know about other branches, whether making good choices is worth doing I think it absolutely is None of us are saints, but we can all try to be better Each time you do something generous, you re shaping yourself into someone who slikely to be generous next time, and that matters.And it s not just your behavior in this branch that you re changing you re inoculating all the versions of you that split off in the future By becoming a better person, you re ensuring thatandof the branches that split off from this point forward are populated by better versions of youThe point is choose the right thing You are the sum of choices you make, after all, and right and wrong do not simply cancel out Support groups, childhood guilt, soulless scams and even murder all of this is mixed in this smart and thoughtful story and all of it boils down to whether you would want to be a better version of yourself.5 stars Omphalosgives us a glimpse into the world where science has proven young Earth creationism It s obvious that the world is eight thousand years old, proven by ringless trees and mummies without navels and fossilized bones without epiphyses and mollusk shells without growth rings.This is the world where there is no doubt ever that God created it for a purpose, and divine purpose drives every aspect of lifeMy teachers told me that God wanted us to reason things out for ourselves But what if that s not true What if his voice cracked what if God had no intentions about us at allThe crisis of faith in this world does not come from the clash between religion and atheism It comes from the immensely frightening possibility that maybe there was no divine purpose for this particular world except for it being a failed experiment, a trial run before the creation of the actual world with God s purpose And just the thought of that can be shatteringI ve devoted my life to studying the wondrous mechanism that is the universe, and doing so has given me a sense of fulfillment I ve always assumed that this meant that I was acting in accordance with your will, Lord, and your reason for making me But if it s in fact true that you have no purpose in mind for me, then that sense of fulfillment has arisen solely from within myself What that demonstrates to me is that we as humans are capable of creating meaning for our own livesWhen all meaning is lost, can you create new purposeEven if humanity is not the reason for which the universe was made, I still wish to understand the way it operates We human beings may not be the answer to the question why, but I will keep looking for the answer to how.This search is my purpose not because you chose it for me, Lord, but because I chose it for myself4.5 stars The Lifecycle of Software Objects an old favorite, reviewed separately here stars The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling A brilliant 5 star story of the nature of memory, the impact of recording our experiences and how objective memory can change our identity and self understanding as compared to the highly subjective experience of remembering that we have nowAnd I think I ve found the real benefit of digital memory The point is not to prove you were right the point is to admit you were wrongThe Merchant and the Alchemist s Gate is a cleverly plotted story of time travel in medieval Baghdad and Cairo Three stories within a story, told in the style of Arabian Nights , dealing with the nature and circularity of time 4.5 starsPast and future are the same, and we cannot change either, only know themfully My journey to the past had changed nothing, but what I had learned had changed everythingThe Great Silence As people are searching for the possibility of communication with so far only theoretical extraterrestrial intelligences, there is a quiet extinction of a nonhuman species capable of communication right here on Earth Very short, very lyrical, very poignant 5 stars What s Expected of Us Another story about free will 2 pages of sheer brilliance 5 starsMy message to you is this Pretend that you have free will It s essential that you behave as if your decisions matter, even though you know they don t The reality isn t important what s important is your belief, and believing the lie is the only way to avoid a waking coma Civilization now depends on self deception Perhaps it always hasExhalation a strange one about the nature of mind and entropy, and also mechanical life forms, containing these exact wordsAuto dissection was the only option4 stars Dacey s Patent Automatic Nanny 3 stars, a rare misstep from Chiang but not enough to affect the brilliance of this story collection Overall, it is a brilliant, thoughtful, highly original collection This will certainly not be my last reread.5 stars for the collection as a whole If you re into stuff like this, you can read the full review.Nothing Erases the Past Exhalation Stories by Ted Chiang Nothing erases the past There is repentance, there is atonement, and there is forgiveness That is all, but that is enough In The Merchant and the Alchemist s Gate by Ted ChiangI could write a review for each one of the stories in this collection, but my favourite is the The Merchant and the Alchemist s Gate.If I had a Time Machine, I would save my time machine journey If you re into stuff like this, you can read the full review.Nothing Erases the Past Exhalation Stories by Ted Chiang Nothing erases the past There is repentance, there is atonement, and there is forgiveness That is all, but that is enough In The Merchant and the Alchemist s Gate by Ted ChiangI could write a review for each one of the stories in this collection, but my favourite is the The Merchant and the Alchemist s Gate.If I had a Time Machine, I would save my time machine journey time just in case it breaks down after too much use until I had paid someone to type out the whole Harry Potter series for me and would travel back to just before J.K Rowling started writing them and start negotiations with publishers Every story has a mind boggling idea as its fulcrum A prism replaces the smart phone as favoured piece of handbag technology which allows the owner to communicate with her paraself in an alternate universe virtual ai pets are brought into the real world via robotic bodies as their owners seek to discover how fruitful a bond can be created with them a robot performs an anatomical study on its own brain in another story we re told we ve been hunting aliens in the wrong places we should be co Every story has a mind boggling idea as its fulcrum A prism replaces the smart phone as favoured piece of handbag technology which allows the owner to communicate with her paraself in an alternate universe virtual ai pets are brought into the real world via robotic bodies as their owners seek to discover how fruitful a bond can be created with them a robot performs an anatomical study on its own brain in another story we re told we ve been hunting aliens in the wrong places we should be consulting parrots The first story reminded me of Paolo Thingybob s The Alchemist one of my all time pet hates platitude dressed up as parable with camels, bazaars and desert storms roped in to provide some soap opera mysticism We can t change the past but we can change the way we experience it isn t that the bedrock of psychoanalysis Perhaps what it s inadvertently about is the megalomania of self pitying men A man has an argument with his wife and then she dies He obliterates every other moment they ve shared to dwell solely on this one argument Otherwise, we re led to believe their relationship was exemplary One moment never defines a history of love It was a trite choice of personal dilemma There are so many miles better ideas out there to provide adramatic example of one moment in a life someone is desperate to replay And this was a problem throughout these stories When it comes to scientific possibility he has a great imagination when it comes to human drama his imagination has a tendency towards clich The human aspect of the narratives with which he dramatized his ideas always seemed a bit lame and lifeless to me There were a couple of stories I enjoyed but on the whole I was left underwhelmed Q We spoke forthan an hour, and my fascination and respect bloomed like a flower warmed by the dawn, until he mentioned his experiments in alchemy c Q We don t normally think of it as such, but writing is a technology, which means that a literate person is someone whose thought processes are technologically mediated We became cognitive cyborgs as soon as we became fluent readers, and the consequences of that were profound.Before a culture adopts the use of writing, when its knowledge is Q We spoke forthan an hour, and my fascination and respect bloomed like a flower warmed by the dawn, until he mentioned his experiments in alchemy c Q We don t normally think of it as such, but writing is a technology, which means that a literate person is someone whose thought processes are technologically mediated We became cognitive cyborgs as soon as we became fluent readers, and the consequences of that were profound.Before a culture adopts the use of writing, when its knowledge is transmitted exclusively through oral means, it can very easily revise its history It s not intentional, but it is inevitable throughout the world, bards and griots have adapted their material to their audiences and thus gradually adjusted the past to suit the needs of the present The idea that accounts of the past shouldn t change is a product of literate cultures reverence for the written word Anthropologists will tell you that oral cultures understand the past differently for them, their histories don t need to be accurate so much as they need to validate the community s understanding of itself So it wouldn t be correct to say that their histories are unreliable their histories do what they need to do.Right now each of us is a private oral culture We rewrite our pasts to suit our needs and support the story we tell about ourselves With our memories we are all guilty of a Whig interpretation of our personal histories, seeing our former selves as steps toward our glorious present selves.But that era is coming to an end Remem is merely the first of a new generation of memory prostheses, and as these products gain widespread adoption, we will be replacing our malleable organic memories with perfect digital archives We will have a record of what we actually did instead of stories that evolve over repeated tellings Within our minds, each of us will be transformed from an oral culture into a literate one.It would be easy for me to assert that literate cultures are better off than oral ones, but my bias should be obvious, since I m writing these words rather than speaking them to you Instead I will say that it s easier for me to appreciate the benefits of literacy and harder to recognize everything it has cost us Literacy encourages a culture to placevalue on documentation and less on subjective experience, It would be easy for me to assert that literate cultures are better off than oral ones, but my bias should be obvious, since I m writing these words rather than speaking them to you Instead I will say that it s easier for me to appreciate the benefits of literacy and harder to recognize everything it has cost us Literacy encourages a culture to placevalue on documentation and less on subjective experience, and overall I think the positives outweigh the negatives Written records are vulnerable to every kind of error, and their interpretation is subject to change, but at least the words on the page remain fixed, and there is real merit in that.When it comes to our individual memories, I live on the opposite side of the divide As someone whose identity was built on organic memory, I m threatened by the prospect of removing subjectivity from our recall of events I used to think it could be valuable for individuals to tell stories about themselves, valuable in a way that it couldn t be for cultures, but I m a product of my time, and times change We can t prevent the adoption of digital memory anythan oral cultures could stop the arrival of literacy, so the best I can do is look for something positive in it.And I think I ve found the real benefit of digital memory The point is not to prove you were right the point is to admit you were wrong.Because all of us have been wrong on various occasions, engaged in cruelty and hypocrisy, and we ve forgotten most of those occasions And that means we don t really know ourselves How much personal insight can I claim if I can t trust my memory How much can you You re probably thinking that, while your memory isn t perfect, you ve never engaged in revisionism of the magnitude I m guilty of But I was just as certain as you, and I was wrong You may say, I know I m not perfect I ve made mistakes I am here to tell you that you have madethan you think, that some of the core assumptions on which your self image is built are actually lies c Q The Fermi Paradox is sometimes known as the Great Silence The universe ought to be a cacophony of voices, but instead it is disconcertingly quiet c Q Only a species of vocal learners would ascribe such importance to sound in their mythologies We parrots can appreciate that c Q Lord, I place myself in your presence, and ask you to shine your light into my heart as I look back upon this day, so that I may seeclearly your grace in everything that has happened c Q for myself, the most precious knowledge I possess is this Nothing erases the past There is repentance, there is atonement, and there is forgiveness That is all, but that is enough c Overall a very good and interesting short story collection Definitely worth checking out The Merchant and the Alchemist s Gate Exhalation What s expected of us The Lifecycle of Software Objects Dacey s Patent Automatic Nanny The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling The Great Silence Omphalos Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom A collection of short stories that will make you think, grapple with big questions, and feelhuman The best kind of science fiction President Obama s summer 2019 reads It s an incredible yet credible collection of highly original, profound stories of the personal and societal implications of future tech From a 3 page snippet to a 100 page novella, they explore humanity s relationship with technology and hence ourselves science, literacy, parallel and alternative worlds, faith, and A collection of short stories that will make you think, grapple with big questions, and feelhuman The best kind of science fiction President Obama s summer 2019 reads It s an incredible yet credible collection of highly original, profound stories of the personal and societal implications of future tech From a 3 page snippet to a 100 page novella, they explore humanity s relationship with technology and hence ourselves science, literacy, parallel and alternative worlds, faith, and free will.You can t fault the writing, but you don t read for lyricism, pithy quotes, and deep characterisation You read for the brain twisting mind expansion.Note The individual reviews are in spoiler tags for easy scrolling they don t contain plot spoilers.The Merchant and the Alchemist s Gate, 4 Nested stories of portals to alternative lives, like a Tale of Arabian Knights view spoiler Coincidence and intention are two sides of a tapestry, my lord You may find oneagreeable to look at, but you cannot say one is true and the other is false Image Front and back of tapestry cushion depicting Esther and Ahasuerus N Netherlands, 1650 80 so wrong culture and wrong periodSource Traditional sci fi writers tackle the mechanics and paradoxical consequences of time travel They include futuristic space faring, alien planets, and exotic lifeforms Chiang takes a theological, philosophical, alchemical approach, and sets it on Earth, hundreds of years ago Sit comfortably and submit to the tangled enchantment of a matryoshka like story with an ancient, mythical tone See, hear, and touch the buzz of a Baghdad bazaar long ago Wander, wonder, and ponder This has a moral, but does not preach It might be a tale of Scheherazade Framing Story My heart was troubled, and neither the purchase of luxuries nor the giving of alms was able to soothe it Now I stand before you without a single dirham in my purse, but I am at peace A penniless man tells his story to a mighty caliph Middle LayerHis story begins when he entered the shop of a metalsmith, where he found waresvaried, exotic, and fine than he had ever seen an astrolabe equipped with seven plates inlaid with silver, a water clock that chimed on the hour, and a nightingale made of brass that sang when the wind blew The owner chatted and then took him to a back room, where he told three fantastic stories, all relating to knowledge, understanding, and acceptance of the past and the future free will versus destiny the will of Allah The alchemy of which the metalsmith spoke is a time portal He offered an explanation, speaking of his search for tiny pores in the skin of reality, like the holes that worms bore into wood, and how upon finding one he was able to expand and stretch it the way a glassblower turns a dollop of molten glass into a long necked pipe, and how he then allowed time to flow like water at one mouth while causing it to thicken like syrup at the other Three More StoriesThe metalsmith s tales are of those who used his gate The Fortunate Rope Maker, The Weaver Who Stole From Himself, and The Wife and Her Lover All of life is here treasure, travel, love, loss, robbers, deceit, disguise, and sacrifice There is guilt, repentance, atonement, and forgiveness That is all, but that is enough What Does it Mean Chiang does confront paradoxes, but not the What if I kill my grandfather kind He drills into the human psyche and soul And the deeper he goes, thepleasingly tangled the knots in the back of the tapestry become Past and future are the same, and we cannot change either, only know themfully My journey to the past had changed nothing, but what I had learned had changed everything LinksThere are echoes of style, setting, and tone of JL Borges stories See my review HERE Telling a wondrous story to a great man reminded of Calvino s Invisible Cities, which I reviewed HERE hide spoiler Exhalation, 4 A dangerously literal sort of introspection view spoiler Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so Self awareness is a fundamental attribute of intelligent life, but the converse isunsettling conscious intelligence that does not fit our usual definition of life.The narrator challenges the assumption that air is the source of life and investigates that, and the mystery of memory, in a shocking, risky, and very personal experiment This challenges readers assumptions about the narrator who and what they are , as well as the readers themselves what makes us human It s also a metaphor for pollution and climate change, along with the panic or denial that can arise from realising the inevitability of death as individuals, or life as we know it Thus, it leads naturally to the next story in the collection, What s Expected of Us Even if a universe s life span is calculable, the variety of life that is generated within it is not None of them could have been predicted, because none of them was inevitable hide spoiler What s Expected of Us, 5 Without free will, would life lose all meaning view spoiler The reality isn t important what s important is your belief Can you force yourself to believe something If a simple device proved free will didn t exist, would there be any purpose in living Perhaps people whose choices are highly constrained, whether by imprisonment or severe disability, are not generally suicidal Three thought provoking pages reminded me of a Monty Python sketch about the danger of the funniest joke in the world and when I read Chiang s notes, I learnt he d had that in mind , but this story is sadder and less funny, but alsoprofound Text of sketch HERE.Video of sketch HERE.See a later story in the collection, Omphalos, for a very different take on free will hide spoiler The Lifecycle of Software Objects, 4 What if Tamagotchis evolved and interacted for decades, into full AIs, with emotions Image Tamagotchi Source view spoiler This wide ranging, thoughtful novella s only slight disappointment was a rather anticlimactic end.A zookeeper cum primatologist is recruited by a software company to work with an animator to develop digients for the game world, Data Earth engaging, and realistic, but without broaching Uncanny Valley.They can be bred and trained Nature and nurture affect them is it wrong to neglect or actively abuse a digient Perhaps it depends in part on how much free will they have to consent, and also how conscious they are as beings What if they developed their own culture Over the years, the tech improves digients in robot bodies interact in the real world , but changes in consumer tastes, data markets, and the wider economy affect development in unexpected ways This story is fundamentally about human relationships with intelligent technology There s research exploring the same idea from the other side If you give someone a 3D head mounted display and beam her into a robot s body so she sees the world from its perspective, you can change her attitude toward it Robot rights and abuse on Vox.com But Empathizing with robots risks actually reducing our empathy for people And that s the basis of the next story in the collection, Dacey s Patent Automatic Nanny hide spoiler Dacey s Patent Automatic Nanny, 4 Machines do the work we don t want to, often better and faster Make them engaging and lifelike, and we can grow fond of them as well Nothing to lose, right view spoiler A Victorian inventor devises an automatic nanny , as a help, rather than replacement He believes rational child rearing will lead to rational children , unhindered by excessive emotional involvement of parents Harry Harlow s maternal separation studies sprang to mind The results are broadly predictable the detail less so See Robot rights and abuse on Vox.com, and the previous story in the collection, The Lifecycle of Software Objects hide spoiler The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling, 5 When you learn to read you will be born againand you will never be quite so alone again Rumer GoddenTwo stories, separated by centuries and continents, explore the ramifications of becoming literate versus the consequences of being deskilled by technology, for individuals and societies view spoiler In the near future thread, people can outsource their memory to lifelogs audio and video , ultimately becoming cognitive cyborgs.Far away, Jijingi, aged 13, is taught to read by a missionary the only person in his village who can.Both technologies change how people think, act, and process the word and the world, and neither are inherently forces for ease or good The sounds a person made while speaking wee as smooth and unbroken as the hide of a goat s leg, but the words on the page were like the bones underneath the meat Both threads explore the importance of remembering and forgetting the difference between two types of truth what s right true in spirit and what s clinically accurate the relative importance of personal experience over documentary evidence, and the temptation to prove one s right over admitting when one s wrong Be kind, don t rewind Revisiting happy events would be a joy, and trying to check facts to settle an argument hard to resist But there would be painful memories as well And sometimes, one would discover one s memory did not match the facts.This happens already when you unearth old photos, videos, letters, or school reports Having history rewritten is unsettling, especially as it s likely to be at times of upheaval, such as going through the possessions of a loved one who has died hide spoiler The Great Silence, 4 The title relates to The Fermi Paradox if the universe is so vast and so old, we are surely not the only intelligent life, so why can t we find it view spoiler Perhaps the problem is that we wouldn t recognise it if we saw it like the dolphins in Douglas Adams So Long, and Thanks for All the FishAspiration means both hope and the act of breathing I speak, therefore I am The opposite of the title of the story collection hide spoiler Omphalos, 4 What if the entire practice of science is founded on a false premiseview spoiler This is a world where young earth creationism is true Unlike the vocal believers online, these people believe the Bible and science, because Chiang has twisted the physics, cosmology, and anthropology to fit In the most ancient tree fossils, the rings just stop at the point of creation, and the oldest mummies have no navels, because they were created omphalos is primary first species Here, humanity was the reason for creation , and scientists have the most reason to believe The Church has always been able to derive strength from the evidence when it s useful and ignore it when it s not That s not always true for individuals there s a crisis of faith and consideration of free will in a different way from the earlier story in the collection, What s Expected of Us hide spoiler Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom, 4 A futuristic device is used for complex criminal ends view spoiler The sci fi aspect concerns Prisms, which are used to communicate with one s paraself, from a different branch of many worlds It s like a shared notepad from a point of divergence, with limited pages When it s used up, there s no way to reconnect Minor scams include a grey market for second hand Prisms, dubious data brokers, and insurance adverts targetting people just before they have an accident The main scam is bigger and relies on an ingenious use of two Prisms, simultaneously It s the issues raised by the device that interested me Like the lifelogs in The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling, the temptation to view is huge Chiang envisages many uses positive collaborating with one s paraself and reaping the full rewards in both branches , neutral what if therapy, or a widow getting social media updates of a para husband who survived , and ultimately destructive, leading to jealousy, self doubt, and an identity crisis.Prisms are neutral, but addict support groups and the crime thread demonstrate the allure and danger of the dark side FlutterbyThis suggests a time traveller wouldn t need to kill Hitler just disturbing an oxygen molecule a month before his conception could change everything But it might not The short story that is often said to have given rise to The Butterfly Effect is Ray Bradbury s The Sound of Thunder See my review HERE If the same thing happens in different branches where you acted differently, then you aren t the cause hide spoiler Self Consciousness and Its Discontents The cost of awareness is the knowledge of inevitability This is the inherent irony of the universe It doesn t matter what we know, our fate has already been fixed The idea of predestination is simultaneously an intellectual triumph and a spiritual dead end mind realising its own impotence.This self consciousness is the dominant theme throughout Chiang s stories In a tale that could be from the Arabian Nights, the protagonist discovers thatCoincide Self Consciousness and Its Discontents The cost of awareness is the knowledge of inevitability This is the inherent irony of the universe It doesn t matter what we know, our fate has already been fixed The idea of predestination is simultaneously an intellectual triumph and a spiritual dead end mind realising its own impotence.This self consciousness is the dominant theme throughout Chiang s stories In a tale that could be from the Arabian Nights, the protagonist discovers thatCoincidence and intention are two sides of a tapestry Our apparent purposes are just as much a product of the systematic causality of the universe as desert sandstorms and random tragedies Sopast and future are the same, and we cannot change either Not even that modern dream of time travel can affect our fates Everything has been programmed from the beginning.In the title story, which takes place in a world of robots who are effectively immortal, one daring individual seeks to uncover the source of his consciousness within his own mechanism But in succeeding, he also discovers the inescapable law of increasing entropy that points to the inevitable doom of the robot civilisation The allusion to our current concerns about global warming is unmistakeable Thus the robot s conclusionSome find irony in the fact that a study of our brains revealed to us not the secrets of the past but what ultimately awaits us Another little gem shows the profound but unanticipated consequences of a new high tech toy The Predictor is a small hand held device which accurately anticipates when the owner will activate it by lighting a green LEDThere s no way to fool a Predictor It works every time So much for the idea of free will and our ability to change the course of universal development And the implicationCivilization now depends on self deception Perhaps it always has The longest tale takes place in a pop up AI company that has developed aNeuroblast genome for a species of virtual creatures calleddigientsDigients are adept at language and learning, and are sold commercially to be nurtured like high tech Tamagotchis They can also be installed temporarily in robots and become part of the physical world Digients are taught by their owners but also teach each other Consequently they develop their own language and independent culture with unpleasant revelations for their owners.So Chiang s attitude toward technology, indeed toward the conscious life which produces it, may seem rather grim But he is surprising in his quasi editorial observations For example one of his characters concludes thatNothing erases the past There is repentance, there is atonement, and there is forgiveness That is all, but that is enough Another makes a virtue out of impotenceMy message to you is this Pretend that you have free will It s essential that you behave as if your decisions matter, even though you know they don tAnd ultimately he provides some sensible spiritual advice toContemplate the marvel that is existence Perhaps not a complete dead end after all