AirToob Lightning

Tags  →  cellular-automata

"Wake" is a highly enjoyable novel, the first of a trilogy about the World Wide Web, by the Canadian science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer, probably best known for Flashforward.

It is the story of a maths- and internet-savvy 15-year-old girl, Caitlin Decter (online moniker "Calculass"), who has been blind from birth. When she is given an experimental computer-linked implant to restore sight in one eye, it is discovered that her brain has co-opted the visual cortex in order to help her navigate the web. The result is that instead of seeing the real world around her (at least at first), she "sees" the complex and fascinating structure of the World Wide Web itself.

It is also the story of the World Wide Web, and the idea that its huge connectivity, combined with one aspect of its communication mechanisms behaving as cellular automata, could give rise to a machine consciousness.

What happens when these two consciousnesses meet - one human, one "other" - is truly fascinating, both as a story and as scientific speculation, and is seen from both their points of view.

The trilogy continues in "Watch" and "Wonder" (which I have also read). Highly recommended.


Because of the coincidence of names, I am reminded of another science fiction writer, Robert L. Forward, who is sadly no longer with us. A physicist who really knew what he was talking about, his stories could make hard science a fascinating subject for anyone. His death in 2002 was a great loss, but his books live on.

If you're interested...

[A fascinating introduction to Cellular Automata: Conway's Game of Life]
[My books page (science fiction section)]