Exhalation by Ted Chiang
Thursday June 13, 2019
Ted Chiang wrote Story of Your Life, which I liked a lot and became the movie Arrival. Exhalation has two more single-timeline deterministic time-travel stories at the beginning, but then it opens up a bit. Chiang's first collection might be better, but read this one too.
Spoilers as I briefly describe Exhalation's stories:
- The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate
- Single-timeline time-travel with portals that can take you whenever they existed.
- Entropy kills (but also some neat stuff on trying to understand brains).
- What's Expected of Us
- Oh man there's no free will.
- The Lifecycle of Software Objects
- Humanlike AI requires humanlike entities. I tend to agree with his take here.
- Dacey's Patent Automatic Nanny
- Some kid develops an attachment to machines rather than people.
- The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling
- Let's understand Trump as pre-literate / maybe perfect (video) memory is cool?
- The Great Silence
- Maybe parrots are really smart?
- A world with physical proof of creationism finds out it was God's practice planet.
- Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom
- Devices for communicating between two parallel universes (one pair per device).
I never wrote about Stories of Your Life and Others, so I'll describe those too:
- Tower of Babylon
- It gets so high that it breaks through the firmament.
- A guy gets crazy smart and fights with another smart guy.
- Division by Zero
- Whoa what if arithmetic is inconsistent.
- Story of Your Life
- Cross-time awareness (single timeline) with aliens and writing.
- Seventy-Two Letters
- What if people really did grow from homunculi (also other weird stuff).
- The Evolution of Human Science
- People make more advanced humans and we can't understand them any more. (Possible connection to AI explainability?)
- Hell is the Absence of God
- A world where angels are real and messy, heaven and hell are real, etc.
- Liking What You See: A Documentary
- Turning off visual perception of human beauty.
Thanks Lenny for letting me know that Exhalation was available!