Computer One Hardcover – Nov 1997
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From Kirkus Reviews
Acclaimed for his two recent novels, The Rationalist (1994) and Gents (1997), British writer Collins shows a less subtle side with this publication of an earlier work, a talky apocalyptic tale first published in 1993 in England. In the 21st century, humankind's main problem has to do with increased leisure time--and how to fill it--since a massively networked supercomputer, Computer One, has taken over everything from climate control to its own maintenance. Utopia proves a delusion, however, when biology professor Yakuda, in an address to a symposium on leisure, neatly links Darwin, Konrad Lorenz, and a sudden increase in atmospheric radioactivity to suggest that the master computer--which, since it's self-replicating, is now by definition a species itself--is taking steps to eliminate its main rival, Homo sapiens. Yakuda and a colleague are attacked soon thereafter when mirrors, part of a solar-power station, focus on them as they go for a stroll: Yakuda's friend is fried, but Yakuda himself, only partially burned, is rescued by ``externals,'' members of a separatist community who belong to a larger network of anti-computer groups living underground and avoiding contact with surface dwellers. When the professor recovers, he makes his rescuers aware of their peril, but it's not until a neighboring group of externals is wiped out by a virus, despite their precautions, that his warning hits home. Yakuda and a team of anti- computer specialists race to devise a means to fight Computer One; as they do, he has to watch not only his former society, but all animal and plant life, systematically exterminated. A supervirus finally renders Computer One nonfunctional--but Yakuda and his team return to base to find that an all-too-human tragedy has struck. A chilling story, but one has to look beyond the talking heads and an Ayn Rand style of pontificating to appreciate it. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In Computer One, Warwick Collins lays out a compelling argument for why it's likely that AI would try to preemptively wipe out humans. I think it's an important read in the field of AI. It's a fun read, and although some complain that it's too philosophical or "talky", if you enjoy novels by Cory Doctorow or The Lifecycle of Software Object by Ted Chiang, you'll enjoy Computer One.
Man creates a global net and makes the mistake of handing over control of all production and supply. The aim is efficiency - but the reality becomes a horror.
Computer One, the net entity, is self-taught through its learning algorithm. It can also make additional computers through its manufacturing ability, thus increasing its own processing power without limit. With this capacity, the net detects the primary cause of remaining inefficiency: humanity itself!
We are not told that Computer One is malicious - only that it is determined and efficient in its destruction of mankind. The irony is that man - the creator - becomes the ultimate problem in a well-run world.
In a kind of Frankenstein outcome, we become the victims of our own creation. Collins leaves the end of the drama open to one's reasonable deduction...