## Oryx And Crake (Margaret Atwood)

From: andrew cooke <andrew@...>

Date: Thu, 24 Oct 2013 09:06:34 -0300

After finishing this book (which I enjoyed) I read through a few online
reviews, and was surprised by the lack of unenthusiasm.  A common issue was
the shallow characters.  Reading it after Stephenson's Anathem puts me at a
disadvantage, but still, psychology is not what this novel is about.

The book is 10 years old.  I guess it is set another 10 or 20 years into the
future.  So it's already possible to ask how much this "speculative fiction"
has got right.

Thankfully, it has completely undestimated the difficulty of bio-engineering.
I see little in the way of bio-conglomerates, commercialisation of genetic
products, or biological weapons systems.

But, in other ways, it is on the money.  The increasing inequality of society.
Mindless, violent internet.  The "company as culture" (Google), the hiring
practices, the search for "talent".  The use of "terrorism" to justify
whatever.

If you replace wetware with soft/hardware you get much closer to reality.
Autonomous drones.  Boston Dynamic's robots (Big Dog et al).

I'm not really qualified to discuss the book as a work of literature.  Apart
from the start, where it tried too hard to explain, it was well-written.
Elegant, coherent, paced.  The central character is fine; the rest are
sketches.

The role of Oryx - the female - is weird.  Parts of the book - the poor
treatment given to the arts - are amusing rants.  But Oryx didn't fit there,
nor in the argument over technology.  My only guess, which I think wrong, is
that she symbolises developing countries, who want to climb the slippery pole
no matter the cost.

Returning to technology: is this still useful as a predicition / warning?  I
think it is.  The timescales were obviously wrong, but the risk remains.  It's
tempting, when extrapolating, to assume that all technologies are similar.
Oryx And Crake argues, convincingly, that biology is going to be much, much
worse.

Where will it happen first?  It's hard not to think of Israel.

Andrew

### Interesting Omissions

From: andrew cooke <andrew@...>

Date: Thu, 24 Oct 2013 10:27:37 -0300

No visible political process ("no real choice").

No biological computing (afaict that remained in silicon).

And finally,
(smart people, technology, moral exceptionalism).