January 25 2011

Blindsight

Blindsight is chock full of ideas. From what is the nature of consciousness to interesting ways to travel into the depths of the solar system.
Blindsight is set (mostly) aboard the spacecraft Theseus. Theseus has been sent to investigate a first contact scenario after a swarm of alien probes image earth. It is set sometime in the later 21st century. The narrator of the story is Siri Keeton. Siri is the synthesist for the voyage–his job is to observe and report. In his early childhood, Siri underwent a hemispherectomy to combat severe epilepsy. His reminisces on what this was like set the stage for deeper probing into the nature of consciousness as we encounter aliens–both on and off the ship.
The rest of the crew is:
Jukka Sarasti–a vampire. It turns out that vampire myths stem from racial remembrances of an evolutionary divergent branch of hominid that went extinct at around the dawn of history. They were cognitively and physically superior to humans, but had a few key weaknesses that allowed for their extinction. In the future they are genetically re-engineered to make use of some of their unique skill.
“The Gang”–the linguist of the expedition is a woman whose mind has been divided into separate consciousnesses, all of them active.
Amanda Bates–is the military presence.
Isaac Szpindel–the biologist. He has also undergone a number of modifications.

From Blindsight:

Theseus carried no regular crew—no navigators or engineers, no one to swab the decks, no meat wasted on tasks that machinery orders of mag smaller could perform orders of mag better. Let superfluous deckhands weigh down other ships, if the nonAscendent hordes needed to attach some pretense of usefulness to their lives. Let them infest vessels driven only by commercial priorities. The only reason we were here was because nobody had yet optimized software for First Contact. Bound past the edge of the solar system, already freighted with the fate of the world, Theseus wasted no mass on self-esteem.

So here we were, rehydrated and squeaky-clean: Isaac Szpindel, to study the aliens. The Gang of Four—Susan James and her secondary personae— to talk to them. Major Amanda Bates was here to fight, if necessary. And Jukka Sarasti to command us all, to move us like chess pieces on some multidimensional game board that only vampires could see.

The crew is placed into suspended animation for a large portion of the journey. We join them upon their awakening as Theseus begins its encounter.
The term Blindsight refers to the phenomenon in which people who are perceptually blind in a certain area of their visual field demonstrate some response to visual stimuli. This and a raft of other aspects of the fragile thing we call our perception are explored. The novel comes with a large number of footnotes.
I enjoyed this book as the nature of consciousness is an area that I have dabbled in (as do we all or at least the we who are aware of the “we”).
Lots of good info and a good read besides.



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Posted January 25, 2011 by user in category "Book review

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