Nexus by Ramez Naam
I can’t remember the last sci-fi book I read. This was a Marginal Revolution recommendation and looked cool. My favorite part of reading this was judging the author’s predictions of the world in 2040. It’s really not that far away. I’m 24, and 2040 is 24 years away. Will we still have phones? Will we have solved cancer?
1) “Kade picked Sam up just past nine in a Siemens autocab. The little plastic and carbon fiber car drove them south and east along the 101, past SFO, past San Mateo, past Menlo Park and Palo Alto and Stanford, and the venture capital of the world.”
Not an Uber? Also interesting that when the plot moves to Bangkok, there is no mention of self-driving cars. Instead, it’s tuk-tuks and chauffeurs.
2) “‘You can’t control what people do with phones, or planes, or the net,’ he replied. ‘People do terrible things with all of those, but the good things outweigh them. Should we take all of those back too?'” – Kade
Brings back memories of my SAT prompt. Is technology good or bad? 8/12.
3) “‘This is Chien Liu, now president of Taiwan. This picture was taken on the eve of his election victory last year, in 2039. President Liu was the head of the DPP, the primary opposition party in Taiwan, and ran his campaign on an anti-Beijing platform'” – Becker
The assumption here is that Taiwan will still be its own thing and that it will still be okay (and popular) to be anti-China. Given current Taiwanese politics, this assumption is at least true in 2016.
4) “Had scientists around the country risen up in protest? Fat chance. Everyone just kept their head down, massaged their research proposals, tried to skirt as close to the edge of what was allowed as they could without endangering their federal grant dollars.”
I’d say that federal funds will play a smaller role in science research than they do now. I see rich private companies taking over.
5) “No wonder the international meeting trumps the US neuroscience meetings these days, Kade thought. The cutting edge stuff isn’t legal at home any more.”
Commentary on how laws can destroy progress.
6) “‘The evolution of language marked a great leap forward for our species. It boosted our cognitive abilities by webbing us together into larger, more powerful group minds. I believe that another quantum step in human cognition awaits us on the other side of direct linkage of our brains and minds to one another.'” – Ananda
When it’s framed like that, it’s hard to argue that something like Nexus will be a reality.
7) “‘The most basic expression of it is ‘May I attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings.’ It’s a pledge to keep being reborn into the material world of suffering, to put nirvana off indefinitely, until all beings in the universe have attained enlightenment and can also enter nirvana. It’s perhaps the ultimate vow of placing others before oneself.'” – Ananda
The Bodhisattva vow.
8) “‘You’re looking at a lot more than input here. If this blows up in our faces, you’re going to see hearings in my committee. Hearings during an election year.’ – Senator Barbara Engels
The author repeatedly casts the government as the bad guys. Will there be any progress in government? How does one even define progress? I agree with him. Politics will be politics.
9) “Shu felt the missiles fire. They were aimed at the car. She couldn’t penetrate the security of the second helicopter, but these missiles were a different matter. They depended on an external source to inform them of their targets. She twisted their primitive minds, sent them spiraling back up at the craft that had fired them.”
I loled. This leap of power was sort of out of place. Deus ex machina.
10) “Every attempt through history to limit the definition of humanity has been a prelude to the subjugation, degradation, and slaughter of innocents. Every one.”
Humanity still has a long way to go. It’s almost like we forget past lessons as time passes and we make mistakes again.
Nexus is really good. Very fast paced and very thought-provoking. Even though it’s sci-fi, almost everything in the story is believable. I would not be surprised at all if the state of the world in 2040 turned out like this. The book is probably one of the best commentaries on the problems that will inevitably come packaged with new technology. The only weak spot I’d point out is the action scenes. They got tiring to follow. Too many explosions and too many people getting kicked in the face. That’s why this should be a movie.