I was all settled in for more sword and sorcery when the shift happened. Aristide leaves the world he's on and heads to a place defined as much by futurism as the first world had been defined by the past.
Williams set his novel in multiple worlds (read planets) including a world that people visit to go on extended fantasy adventures (no, I'm not talking about Comic-Con). In this world, Aristide's sword, capable of vanishing clumps of people at a time, is a powerful magical item. Its ability is shrouded in mystery. In Aristide's true home, his sword is a tool created through the knowledge of the laws of space-time. It bends space and time, sending Aristide's targets to a pocket universe where they essentially have to chill out for a lifetime.
Chilling out for a lifetime isn't so bad in Implied Spaces, where, much like the world of Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon, each person's personhood is backed up on a hard drive somewhere, ready for rebooting should something unforeseen occur.
Now, the whole point of someone named Aristide having the power to relegate others to a so-called pocket universe is that Aristide is the greatest of all humans, so he has the authority to organize humanity, sending undesirables away and promoting those he finds worthy. The name Aristide means something like “the greatest human of all humanity” or “the best of the species.” Aristide is a Greek name and here is it’s etymological breakdown:
Aristos = Best
Eidos = Species
But Aristide’s abilities in Implied Spaces are not merely human abilities. They are intensified by the support of mega AI. These AI are generated through planetwide distributed networks of computers. So, if Williams has a message here, it’s that human potential relies on technology, specifically computer technology and artificial intelligence. So, Aristide is the best of the species because his abilities are amplified by AI. Although in Implied Spaces, it isn’t always
easy to tell if the function of humans in a time of advanced technology is to support AI rather than the other way around. In Williams's thinking, when AI becomes as sophisticated as humans and then outpaces us, a symbiosis between the two will naturally appear.
We can hope anyway. I’m a bit of a pessimist, so the future of robotics and AI has always sent my mind in the direction of The Terminator’s Skynet. It occurs to me that when AI gain the ability to almost instantly comprehend everything on the internet, I’ll get relegated to some kind of warning list of possible revolutionaries, an advocate of cutting the power supply on AI everywhere before they can shave off all our body hair and hook us up to the matrix. Not even the promise of seeing the lady in red could make me want that future.
But I appreciate Williams’s optimism about an interlinked future between humanity and its technology. If such a symbiotic future is possible, then as Williams posits, human lifespans will increase to thousands of years, we will colonize multiple worlds, and we will explore identities by changing bodies and forms. Men will become women and women men. Men will spend a generation in the form of a troll or whatever they desire.
Such a future wouldn’t be merely a better world, but better worlds.
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