Yesterday, I read The Things that Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away by Cory Doctorow. It reminds me quite a bit of 1984, though with rather more tech-speak than newspeak. A few thoughts, then:
The Order of Reflective Analytics seems to be a fairly transparent analogue of Google, so much that the Order calls its premises ‘campuses’ and gives the monks ’20 percent time’, as it is with Google. I mention this only because I wonder whether this will be recognizable in five years or ten. For the purposes of the story, internally, this really doesn’t matter, but it is important on the meta level. It’s true that Google stores a huge amount of data–taking myself as an example, they have my email, my chat logs, my search and browsing history, a fair number of documents I’ve written, code I’ve written, my photos, this blog, and probably several more things that aren’t coming to mind just now. Whether I can trust them to be ‘not evil’ is an important question, and the story wouldn’t be quite the same without that association.
On a less serious note, the word ‘pan’ leaped out at me. After reading it a few times, I concluded that it referred to a Personal Area Network, but I do wonder what fraction of the story’s readers will make that association. Unless something has happened lately that I’m not aware of, PAN isn’t a very popular acronym. I suppose it’s something of an easter egg–like I expect the Google references will be in a few years.
The story has a few inconsistencies, but they’re the sort that wouldn’t be too hard to write around, and I expect the story will be revised to correct them at some point. Reading the comments on the story was something like reading a mix of story reviews and bug reports–an interesting experience.
My opinion is that The Things that Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away is worth reading. Too, an MP3 is available for download of Cory Doctorow reading the story, for those who prefer audiobooks.