The Two Faces of Tomorrow
Order by Mail
or Online


I set the story forty years into the next century, by which time an integrated global system is managing much of the world's affairs.  However, proposals for a major upgrade involving new software that learns are causing serious questions to be asked about the degree of decision-making that it can be entrusted with. The trouble is that while the solutions that it comes up with are logically flawless, they are unconstrained by the kind of common sense that humans acquire through a lifetime of real-world experience--which on several occasions has almost resulted in catastrophe.  One school of opinion argues that the only way to go is forward, accepting the risks and allowing the system to learn from experience in the same way that people did.   "Besides, if anything really bad starts happening, we can always downgrade again or pull the plug."  "How can you guarantee that it will always let you?" the opponents reply.

The answer eventually agreed is to run a test on a world-in-miniature.  One of the new space habitats is taken over for the experiment and equipped with a supersystem containing all the advanced capabilities proposed for incorporation into the global net.   The system is programmed for self-preservation as its highest goal, introducing deliberately the faculty of a "survival instinct" that the critics have speculated could arise spontaneously.  The scientists then begin "attacking" it in a series of escalating tests to find out what it's capable of.   It's far from Earth, so anything unexpected will be isolated and contained.  A strong military presence is included in the mini-world's population--just in case things should take a nasty turn.  And if it gets out of hand, we can always evacuate the whole place and nuke it.  But the System, of course, doesn't quite see things that way.

Content © The Estate of James P. Hogan, 1998-2014. All rights reserved.

Page URL: http://www.jamesphogan.com/books/info.php?titleID=28&cmd=summary