Artificial intelligence has long been a favorite feature of science fiction. Every robot or talking computer or starship operating system has contributed to our idealized image of the bits-and-bytes brain.
In (ID)entity (47North, 2017), PJ Manney further expands our vision of A.I. by uploading her human protagonist to a server; from there, he is replicated and downloaded, re-emerging in everything from a sex-bot to a vegetative man.
Published this month by 47North, (ID)entity is the second book in Manney’s fast-paced, plot-twisting Phoenix Horizon series. As the follow-up to the Philip K. Dick Award-nominated (R)evolution, her new novel is both an exploration of transformative technology and a thriller, set in a world where nations (including the U.S.) have collapsed, swathes of humanity face enslavement, and the future of civilization hangs in the balance.
One of Manney’s ambitions as a writer (in addition to entertaining readers) is to prepare the public for the possible impacts of new technology. “If we know that these things are coming, we can start forming opinions about what to do,” she says. “Because here’s the thing: nothing gets banned. [If] it gets banned in one country, it doesn’t get banned in another country. There’s no way that technology stops from happening.”
Manney likens the idea of transforming a human incrementally–gradually swapping cells for bits–to the thought experiment known as Theseus’s paradox, which asks: if you restore every piece of Theseus’s ship with an entirely new piece, is the final result still Theseus’s ship?
“I’m positing, yes it is,” she says, with regard to her protagonist’s transformation from man to super-sophisticated CPU.
While (ID)entity is set in the near future, Manney doesn’t expect that people will be able to save themselves to their hard drives soon. “Uploading is farther off than we think.”
The third and final book in the series, (CON)science, is scheduled for release in November 2018.
Rob Wolf is the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape. He worked for many years as a journalist, writing on a wide range of topics from science to justice reform, and now serves as director of communications for a think tank in New York City. Read his blog or follow him on Twitter.