I not long ago finished a book I was gifted at Christmas time. “Ninefox Gambit” by Yoon Ha Lee (2016) . I really enjoyed it, nice and short, fast paced and an interesting, alien culture. I tend to read a lot more books at this time of year. When it’s dark, cold and wet outside, and you’ve just got back in from a surprise snow storm during your dog’s evening walk, the fire is burning and the comfy sofa awaits…. There are spoilers in this post so please do look away now if you plan to read this book and do not like to know the ending before you start.
More recently (like tonight, about 30 minutes ago) I read several pages of Hayles (1999) and was struck by the themes of both this paper and Ninefox Gambit. I was in fact somewhat intrigued to learn that the concept of separating the presentation layer from the data was somehow less than ideal when talking about the existence of a human, rather than say, an e-commerce website design. That “in the face of such a powerful dream, it can be a shock to remember that for information to exist, it must always be instantiated in a medium” (ibid p.13). The point, I take from this is that even with a transfer from one to another, there is a point where it exists not in the host or a destination, no matter how fleeting that time may be. There is no pipe or cable capable of transferring “us”.
The main character in Ninefox Gambit, Cheris, is a medium of/for another character from history who has resided in the Black Cradle for centuries, and is tied to a new host in the physical realm whenever the services are required of a suicidal rebel with dreams of bringing down the entire culture in to which he was born. In order to achieve this, the main character achieved a form of immortality, which outlasts even the best attempts to assassinate the main character.
It’s not an uncommon theme in sci-fi, and I’m keen to retrace steps back through Ian M. Banks and Peter F. Hamilton who cover this theme too in books I remember reading in the past, but I will read on in Hayles (ibid) to see if there’s some reason that I should be more critical of any plot line that requires us to suspend disbelief regarding the act of uploading ourselves and then reprinting ourselves back in to the physical realm. I’m still of a mind that technology offers us the means to replicate the most complex parts of our life, eventually. If it does, never mind immortality, maybe we’ll get accurate weather forecasts…
LEE, Y. H. 2016. Ninefox Gambit, Solaris.
Hayles, N. Katherine (1999) Towards embodied virtuality from Hayles, N. Katherine, How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics pp.1-25, 293-297, Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press.