The story is epistolary in nature, taking the form of a scientist's journal entry. The scientist is a member of a race of air-driven mechanical beings. When it is realised that a number of clocks simultaneously appear to be running fast but they do not appear to be malfunctioning, the narrator decides to explore alternate explanations. The scientist carries out an experiment which confirms his worst fears.
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With his masterful first collection, multiple-award-winning author Ted Chiang deftly blends human emotion and scientific rationalism in eight remarkably diverse stories, all told in his trademark precise and evocative prose.
From a soaring Babylonian tower that connects a flat Earth with the heavens above, to a world where angelic visitations are a wondrous and terrifying part of everyday life; from a neural modification that eliminates the appeal of physical beauty, to an alien language that challenges our very perception of time and reality…
Chiang’s rigorously imagined fantasia invites us to question our understanding of the universe and our place in it.
Copies of will feature either Amy Adams or Jeremy Renner on the cover.
The story follows a man who is given an experimental drug to heal brain damage caused by anoxia after he nearly drowns. The drug regenerates his damaged neurons and has the unintended side effect of exponentially improving his intellect and motor skills. As he gets smarter and smarter, he is pursued by several government agencies and eventually receives a message from—and then enters into conflict with—another super-smart test subject.
The story follows Fuwaad ibn Abbas, a fabric merchant in the ancient city of Baghdad. It begins when he is searching for a gift to give a business associate and happens to discover a new shop in the marketplace. The shop owner, who makes and sells a variety of very interesting items, invites Fuwaad into the back workshop to see a mysterious black stone arch which serves as a gateway into the future, which the shop owner has made by the use of alchemy. Fuwaad is intrigued, and the shop owner tells him three stories of others who have traveled through the gate to meet and have conversation with their future selves. When Fuwaad learns that the shop keeper has another gate in Cairo that will allow people to travel even into the past, he makes the journey there to try to rectify a mistake he made twenty years earlier.
The story follows a young miner from the town of Elam who ascends the tower of Babylon to help break through the vault of heaven. Along the way he sees many wonderous sights, uncovers mysteries of heaven and earth, and in the end finds them as inscrutable as ever.
What's the best way to create artificial intelligence? In 1950, Alan Turing wrote, “Many people think that a very abstract activity, like the playing of chess, would be best. It can also be maintained that it is best to provide the machine with the best sense organs that money can buy, and then teach it to understand and speak English. This process could follow the normal teaching of a child. Things would be pointed out and named, etc. Again I do not know what the right answer is, but I think both approaches should be tried.”
The first approach has been tried many times in both science fiction and reality. In this new novella, at over 30,000 words, his longest work to date, Ted Chiang offers a detailed imagining of how the second approach might work within the contemporary landscape of startup companies, massively-multiplayer online gaming, and open-source software. It's a story of two people and the artificial intelligences they helped create, following them for more than a decade as they deal with the upgrades and obsolescence that are inevitable in the world of software. At the same time, it's an examination of the difference between processing power and intelligence, and of what it means to have a real relationship with an artificial entity.