Boris Mann’s Personal Blog

Jul 2011

Magic, science, and cryptocurrency; also, book reviews

I just finished reading "Out of the Black". It's mainly responsible for the magic part of this title, although technically it is set in the far future. You don't really notice the far future part, since you already have to suspend disbelief for the magic bits. Actually, the one technology piece that was interesting (and probably won't age well) was the concept that everyone had a tablet. The unique thing about the tablet was that it could resize. You made it small and stuck it in your pocket, but then you could take it and expand it to some maximize size for mapping or image work or whatever.

This book is a bit of a variant on The Matrix, in the sense that there is a lot of fighting and there is a "layer" underneath reality that can be accessed and manipulated (the magic bit, which is called the Loom). It has thriller pacing, plus some jumping forward and backward in timelines from different character points of view which doesn't _quite_ work (feels more like a movie script). Regardless, an enjoyable quick read.

A 2-book series that I finished some time ago was Daemon and Freedom (TM) by Daniel Suarez. I really should be writing a lot more about them rather than tacking them on to review #1, but at least I'm posting something.

Let's see, where to start. It takes place in present day / near future. An MMORPG game company CEO dies, which sets in motion a bunch of stuff involving a "daemon", or set of computer scripts that the CEO had set up. These set of computer scripts interact with the real world and people through lots of automation and scanning news feeds and bot nets and other fairly believable things (the author has a background in computers and security, which keeps things from getting too Hollywood, which I appreciated).

And then self-sufficiency in food systems (including an anti-Monsanto interlude), cryptocurrency, and DIY technology making enter the picture. With eBay-style reputation assigned to personal interactions of all kinds, plus a gamification layer where everybody has levels and classes. See, the daemon has been set in motion to kind of shepherd the human race onto a new way of living. Or at least, a new way of socio-economic organizing.

At the time I was reading the book, the following IRL things were happening:

  • Bitcoin was just hitting main stream media
  • I've been thinking a lot about local / direct food systems with Foodtree
  • our worldwide economic systems have been hitting the crapper
  • The Canadian Federal election put a robot prime minister in power

So, I tore through the first book and made it straight through into the second. It also has thriller pacing, and I'm sure is in part designed to feed into the gamer / Internet professional brain.

Fun read, makes you think. If you are at all interested in how technology-assisted collaboration, governance, and economics might work, read the book.

Thanks to Sean for recommending these books.