Lobsters (2001)

Accelerando 1/9

I’ve wanted to re-read Accelerando for some time, mostly because after my first read-through I stumbled upon a comment by Stross about how most of story, even the fate of humanity at large, was orchestrated by Manfred’s cat Aineko, which went completely under my radar. I wasn’t sure how I could have missed it and wanted to see how much of it could really be seen on a page-by-page base or whether Stross had been too subtle for his own good. So far, as the first story in the sequence is concerned, there’s isn’t much in regard to Aineko and her über-plot.

But as the first part of the whole book/sequence, Lobster is off to a great start. What distinguished Stross’s take on the singularity from others in the field was that he didn’t merely waved his high-tech magic wand, but that he convincingly started of with the basics instead of jumping to the main event. This involved experiments with uploading less complex animals (relatively speaking) and the ethical and especially the legal ramifications of how to handle these uploads. Lobsters is not about the singularity per se (this is only a speculative argument at this point), but about the rights we grant intelligent beings, irrespective of their substrate.

It’s fascinating how Manfred’s successful attempt to save the uploaded Lobsters feels like a victory and yet is, in hindsight, the first step toward the destruction of the human race. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and all that (though it’s not clear, in the context of Stross’s setting, if the singularity could have been avoided at all, as this seemed to happen to all intelligent races in our corner of the universe).