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The Lifecycle Of Software Objects by Ted Chang

1/07/2010. Contributed by Gareth D Jones

Buy The Lifecycle Of Software Objects in the USA - or Buy The Lifecycle Of Software Objects in the UK

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pub: Subterranean Press. 144 page small deluxe hardback. Price: $25.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59606-317-4.

check out website: www.subterraneanpress.com

The development of artificial intelligence has been dealt with numerous times before and often used as a fait accompli in Science Fiction. In 'The Lifecycle Of Software Objects' we are taken on a journey through the process of just how this could happen. The development not just of the software and technology to make an AI a reality, but the process of teaching a piece of software instead of programming it, of allowing it to grow and develop, to nurture it like a child. Ted Chiang's BSFA award-winning story 'Exhalation' was stunningly original in its treatment of mechanically-based AIs and aroused my interest in what he would accomplish with its software-based equivalent.

The first notable thing about this novella is that it is written in the present tense, something not often seen in any prose and certainly not at this length. It's something that at first seems odd, but soon fades from notice. It's also written from an omniscient point of view, giving us details of the development of the software industry, the AI technology and the public's reaction to it. This weaves back and forth between the two main characters to see important events in more detail. This does give the book a slightly detached feel, giving it the feel of a documentary, which is almost what it is.



We're introduced to two software programmers, Ana and Derek, who are working on the development of AI virtual pets. It is their interaction with their creations that forms the centre of this story as their 'digients' develop their own personalities and come up against a series of problems both personal and technological. Much of this is interesting and thought-provoking, but the interaction between human characters is a little awkward, the dialogue stilted. This could be a reflection of their immersion in virtual worlds with their pets.

This story does not provide high drama and thrills, but does develop a thoughtful process in a logical manner. The possibilities of the virtual reality world and the ramifications of emergent AIs are considered and woven into the lives of the main characters. It's certainly a worthwhile story to follow.

Gareth D. Jones

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