Re: The hazards of writing fiction about post-humans

From: Slawomir Paliwoda (
Date: Thu May 05 2005 - 01:45:14 MDT

>>Stories about posthumans usually don't work because these posthuman
>>characters do not (or shouldn't) share much of our humanity, and by that I
>>mean our fallibility, and this is why the audience struggles to form an
>>empathetic bond with these characters. On the other hand, making a
>>posthuman act like a
>>human doesn't make sense, just like portraying a human character acting
>>a bacteria wouldn't (Ok, they both eat and move, but that's about all they
>>have in common). All this means that writing credible and moving stories
>>about posthumans is futile. Fortunately, there should be plenty of space
>>*around* the problem. :)

> It has been explored around the edges. Vinge creates his "zones of
> thought" to have a universe where some of the characters are less than
> >gods.

It's certainly a step in the right direction. Conflict is what fuels any
story and allows it to move forward. The most boring story would be one
about paradise where almighty gods have the capacity to resolve any conflict
they may face within their reality.

Any good story is a reflection of human experience which consists of
problems and our struggles to overcome the limits of our human nature in
order to solve these problems. Stories that capture these struggles resonate
emotionally with us because they contain recognizable truth found in our own
lives. God's reality that lacks conflict is alien to our experience. Humans
can only care about things that pertain to their existence.

> You certainly can have human characters in a post singularity world, sort
> of like we have Amish in our world but far more extreme.

IMO, throwing 100% human characters into a posthuman world is the only way
to make a post-singularity story work if the goal is to give the audience an
emotionally meaningful experience.

> But what are the characters to accomplish in such a world? It's a world
> with gods or (if Eliezer does it right) one friendly god.

Even within fictional world ruled by almighty Humane AI there should be
plenty of room to present a moving and credible human story. There is huge
amount of things that a human could accomplish in such a world.

> It is a world where humans have less influence on important matters that
> effect the future then cockroaches.

This shouldn't happen if Friendliness is done right. But I guess it depends
on what we mean by "important matters" and our understanding of how
Friendliness should work. From what I understand about Friendliness and
Collective Volition we should have enough influence over our lives and our
happiness. There should be many interesting human stories a writer could
weave within a fictional world ruled by Humane AI.

This, of course, doesn't mean it's easy. My experience as a student of
storytelling craft tells me that post-singularity stories are one of the
most difficult to write, that is, if the goal is to create logically
consistent, scientifically correct, and, above all, moving stories. It's
hard enough to create emotionally meaningful story set in pre-singularity
world, let alone one that happens after Singularity.


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