Saturday, June 20, 2015

Future Brain Networking

Nexus (Nexus, #1)Nexus 
by Ramez Naam

“We think of ourselves as individuals, but all that we have accomplished, and all that we will accomplish, is the result of groups of humans cooperating. Those groups are organisms in their own rights.”   ― Ramez Naam, Nexus

This novel reminded me of the science fiction that I used to enjoy, but no longer find nearly as interesting. The main idea, an experimental nano-drug, Nexus, which allows the brain to be programmed and networked, connecting human minds together, is interesting. But that is not enough to hold my interest for a whole novel. The story involves secret Government agencies, drug dealers, foreign agents, corrupt corporations and more.

There are multiple scenes of action and some suspense, though this did not create a reason for me to turn the pages. The action scenes were one of the aspects that impressed me the least while the scene of the action moves into southeast Asia. I've had my fill of mediocre science fiction set in the not too distant future in that part of the world.
The book raises some critical philosophical questions about emerging technologies and whether it is good to develop technologies that can be used for both good and evil. What are scientists' moral responsibilities regarding how their technology is used? The author is somewhat heavy-handed in his treatment of these questions (characters sit around debating these things a lot), but nevertheless they are important and difficult questions.

While many have found this novel exciting and well-written I was unimpressed by the writing and disinterested in the action. The best part of the novel was the appendix "The Science of Nexus" that lucidly explained the scientific genesis of the concepts upon which the "nano-drug Nexus" was based.  That was too late for this reader, however, those who like action scenes and a novel way of connecting human minds for communication may enjoy this more than I did.

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Brian Joseph said...

I also once read a lot of this type of science fiction.

I find that much of it still holds up for me. However the works that do retain their value in my view really do not have a lot of action, intrigue or dramatic plot twists. Even if the underlying philosophy is interesting such attempts at cheap thrills seem to mar a book.

There are indeed fascinating issues. I am currently reading Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom. It is fascinating non fiction book that attempts to address many similar issues.

James said...


Thanks for your observations. The book by Nick Bostrom sounds interesting as these ideas seem to be playing out in the real world.