Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Very Good Book

I woke up last night at 3:00AM and finished the last few pages of Niel Stephenson new book Anathem. My sister gave it me as a Christmas present. It is one of those books that when you read it you are torn between two feelings. You want to rush through it because it is such a thriller and you want to slow down and read it slowly because you fear when you are finished with it you will wish it had not yet ended. In a talk that Stephenson gave at Google recently he discussed the criticism of how he ended novels. Well in this one I think it is not even possible that he can be criticized.

The book not only is a great thriller but also is very good from perspective of believable science fiction. The main (science) idea in the book; that consciousness is an intentional path that an organism follows through the multiverse created by the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, is very satisfying.

Another idea expressed in the book, what the author calls 'sconic' philosophy comes very close to the idea of consciousness as a modeling engine. In particular the idea that we are only equal to our sensory inputs is also very satisfying.