Monday, August 22, 2011

WWW: Watch (Book)

Consciousness. Watch. Game Theory.  Non-zero-sum.  Beyond Selfish Genes. Turning the Other Check.  Choice. Big Brother. 

WWW: Watch, the second book in Robert J, Sawyer’s WWW Trilogy, continues where WWW: Wake left off. WATCH refers to Web Activity Threat Containment Headquarters, a government agency responsible for keeping the United States safe from on-line threats. Caitlin, the teenager who gained sight in WWW: Wake, refers to not allowing anything happen to Webmind, the name the emerging entity on the internet gives itself, on her watch. Certainly, Hobo, the sign language using chimpanzee Bonobo hybrid, is being watched. Yet, WWW: Watch is also a book about making choices. Both Webmind and Hobo have to choose which paths they will take in the world.

Briefly, at the beginning of WWW: Watch, Caitlin chooses to tell her parents about Webmind. The three humans help play a role in the path of Webmind’s evolution. After Webmind passively watches a teenager commit suicide on-line, Barb, Caitlin’s mother, begins to teach Webmind about being a force for good in the world. Barb draws from the Game Theory of Economics, as well as from Religion. The humans also help Webmind access more information about the world by giving him the capacity to access various types of files as well as to hear actual sounds in Caitlin’s world. In the meantime, Caitlin is still struggling with having sight for the first time and dealing with boys. WATCH not only finds out about Webmind but also makes its first attempt to neutralize him. On another front, Hobo is beginning to exhibit the aggressive behavior associated with chimpanzees. His friends try to give him additional options for how he can choose to relate to the world.

WWW: Wake is not one of the most exciting books I have ever read; the plotline is a bit flat. — I am half way through reading WWW: Wonder, which is more dynamic —Yet, Wake is one of the most thought provoking books I have ever read. Sawyer talks about the differences between human (animal) evolution and Webmind’s evolution, especially when it comes to selfishness. Sawyer invokes both game theory and the Bible to discuss the usefulness of altruism and cooperation. He discusses difficult topics like on-line suicides and Asperger Syndrome. I have evolved while I have been reading and thinking about the books in the WWW Trilogy.

A Footnote: Yesterday, too tired to write up my reaction to WWW: Watch after staying up late to see who won the Hugo for best novel, I watched an interesting interview with Robert J. Sawyer in which he talked about the WWW Series. 

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