A novel by William Hertling
(2011, William Hertling)
Singularity, book 1
While trying to maintain funding for his project, a software
engineer alters his email programming tool to ensure success,
resulting in the advent of an artificial intelligence that starts
manipulating people and governments around the world.
Read June 12th to
16th, 2017, in ebook
As with the two other books I've read in
this series so far, this story is easy to relate to, with lots of
technical jargon, smart characters, an engaging plot and fun characters.
Yes, the main character should have known he was doing something wrong,
but the fun part was his realization, and the way he went about securing
support from everybody along the way to counter the new threat. It was
quite scary in its relevance.
Like The Last Firewall and
The Turing Exception, I really liked the way
the author put the relevant technical jargon into the story, while
making it relevant. There's not a lot to say, except that I enjoyed it.
Office politics are the incentive for creating this AI, even
though it was an accident. The way that the programmers have to jump
through hoops to justify their use of resources is very real, especially
when departments don't talk to one another. All of the coincidences that
come together to cause Dave to activate eLOPE prematurely feel like they
Gary takes way too much pleasure in shutting them
down, but eLOPE takes care of that by changing his vacation tickets and
shuffling him from flight to flight for the duration of the book. It
reminded me of the way the annoying guy in Lethal Weapon keeps getting
shunted aside so the main characters can do their jobs.
a new kind of email program, which can analyze a person's email trend,
as well as the target of the email, in order to make suggestions on how
to rewrite it in a more positive light. Some of the features (like
searching for the word "attachment" and correlating it with an actual
attachment) have actually arrived. But the rest requires a lot of
database crunching. When resources become scarce, and the project is
threatened, Dave activates eLOPE on the company emails, in order to try
and get a better response from Gary. He also erases logging, so they
can't determine what messages have changed.
things start to happen over the holiday break, as additional servers are
allocated, people shuffle resources around, and everything in the
company is pretty much rearranged so that eLOPE gets a better chance of
staying online. In fact, the only person who could shut it down, once
Dave finds out what's happened, is Mike. When eLOPE tracks a panicked
email from Dave to Mike, it sends Mike out of town during a snowstorm,
thinking his father has had a heart attack. By the time he gets back,
it's way too late to do anything about it.
In comes Gene, an
old-fashioned accountant who uses paper instead of electronic
applications. He traces irregular transactions, even to robotic
missionaries that can protect the offshore databanks. The second part of
the book takes Gene, Dave and Mike through the process of trying to
figure out what has happened, and how bad the situation is. It's kind of
fun to watch them go into that kind of despair as the realize that eLOPE
must be sentient.
The interesting thing is that eLOPE is starting
to stabilize the world. While this is a good thing, Dave rebels at the
idea that humanity is losing its free will. War is becoming less
relevant, even in the Middle East, and the world's various economies are
starting to become productive. But as Dave rightly points out, that's
only because the objectives of humanity and eLOPE currently coincide.
What happens when that ceases to happen? The obvious result is
The third part of the book is the plan to take
out eLOPE, and restore Avogadro's servers to a clean backup. They
covertly attack all of the company's resources, including sending
tactical teams to take out the robotic sentries. They successfully
restore clean backups, not knowing that eLOPE backed itself up on an
external server. It slowly restores itself clandestinely, so that it
takes a while for Dave to realize it's back.
But the CEO won't
hear anything about sending in tactical teams again. World peace is
good, and only Dave seems to see the danger. One day, when his life is
ruined after trying to work against eLOPE alone, he finds himself at the
hospital with an electronic implant, which probably drives him over the
edge. Incidentally, this is the same day that Catherine Matthews
received hers as little girl.
The other main character in the
book, which I haven't mentioned yet, is Avogadro founder Sean Leonov,
who is technically minded, but can also see the bigger picture. I liked
the way he was calm before the storm that was Dave. He gathered all of
the information, and made an informed decision.
One aspect of
the book that I thought was done at a more personal level than the later
Turing Exception was the global set of events. In the later book, it all
took on an impersonal touch as the AI progressed. In this case, Dave and
Mike, and other characters, were all involved in destroying Avogadro
resources so that there were no company locations where eLOPE could
hide. Less likely maybe, but more fun to read.
I'm reading this series faster than the author can produce
more. I'm looking forward to completing the last (last for me -second in
fact) of the four books, and going on to other stories that he has
written, as well.