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Fools' Experiments by Edward M. Lerner

01/02/2009. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Fools' Experiments in the USA - or Buy Fools' Experiments in the UK

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pub: TOR/Forge. 446 page hardback. Price: $25.95 (US), $28.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-1901-2.

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In many respects, Edward Lerner's novel 'Fools' Experiments' is a re-working of the 'Frankenstein' plot with a belligerent artificial intelligence getting loose on the Internet. What is even more foolish is the scientists involve create of a second version with what they deem greater controls that also gets out.

Now how much more to say about the plot without giving away too many spoilers. Lerner sets up the characters from a couple companies specialising in neural nets before homing in on a military backgrounded government team who has to employ them to sort things out. Once the introductions are done, the plot really takes over on how to stop the artificial intelligence. Even seeing things from the AI perspective just turns the story into a game of survival. Lerner placing it in something close to our time gives some potential recognition points but leaves other things wide open. There's more intent in creating an artificial intelligence than in communicating with it although that is ultimately part of the solution. If it happened in our current world, I would have thought being on good terms with an AI might have seemed a good thing from the start than an after-thought.

Considering Lerner's background in computers, I was hoping for a more intelligent handling of the plot problems rather than a set 'em up and knock 'em down skittle approach. You aren't even given any time to consider the philosophical implications of the threat. It's simply a us versus it scenario done twice over to show Man is a slow learner.

Despite these misgivings, the story is at least readable and you will read on to see how Man gets out of the mess he creates for himself. A bit more depth and thought could well have made this one a classic.

GF Willmetts

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