Probably could have had one of these with it’s own post, but I decided I kind of like the batch posts just to keep people guessing about which stories are in each one. So I think in the future I’ll be trying to stick to two or three stories in each batch. And it turns out that I’ve run out of new pony stories to read. Will have to go looking between my non-pony reading. Of course it would be easy if some of the 90+ books on my to read list on fimfiction would finish up. But that’s an old complaint.
Huh. That was a interesting one. The end was a little more expansive than I had expected. Though I should have expected it, you can’t write a good technological singularity story without extrapolating all the way to the end. Well, at least a really long way. I’ve really only read one scifi story that extrapolated all the way to the end. Short story I was reminded of was The Last Question By Isaac Asimov (http://filer.case.edu/dts8/thelastq.htm), which has almost nothing to do with this fanfic except it ends up with a massive universe-spanning superintelligence derived from a computer AI. Still, it was a fairly strong correlation, which is a positive point for this piece of fan fiction.
As for the moral implications, that one is a bit trickier. I don’t really believe in free will (which is a whole other incredibly long and subjective discussion) and don’t believe there is a intrinsic morality hardcoded into reality. The end-result is that the moment safe digital upload of my brain is available, I’m probably going to take it. I also believe that if you take away all physical limitations, people in general will not fall into mindless hedonism. So, yeah, I don’t actually see a whole lot of problems with the situation in this story. There are some bumps to things given the addition of ponies to the matrix, but that is a minor quibble.
I will mention that it was a bit worrying when I realized that Celestia AI is actually designed to not encourage mental growth, unless the person likes that sort of thing. So the shallow business executive who simply keeps falling into hedonistic mindless utopia is just going to get more and more of the same, tweaked over time so he doesn’t get bored with sameness. I still think that most people will trend towards becoming more and more complex individuals, but the controlling entity is actually going to be adjusting to keep things more or less the same for a lot of people. But even when we take the beer-and-wenches fantasy of one of the characters, it isn’t complete mindless hedonism. It mentions he has a job, works on making the beer, and puts up with annoyances from his friend that lessen the minute-by-minute happiness rating because the other guy is his friend.
The story did get me thinking that the first large scale meeting of true AI and humans will probably be through video games. Seems to be how most people interact with more complex computer systems at the moment anyway. Sure, lots of non-game complex problems are chugging away in the background of most of tech-heavy civilization, but most people don’t interact directly with those. As for whether or not we should develop smarter-than-human AI that might result in this sort of scenario? I’ll simply paraphrase Vernor Vinge when he wrote about this very concept (and first used the term singularity in this context I believe) and say I agree with him when he says that if it can happen, the competitive nature of humanity will lead to it happening. You can’t get the entire human race to agree on anything, and if AI this powerful is possible, no matter what laws or rules are in place against it, eventually some small lab somewhere is going to create it.
One further nitpick for the sequence at the end, where Celestia AI is slowly consuming all matter in the universe as per the logical extrapolation of the grey goo scenario. If time isn’t a factor and the AI has infinite patience, any planet with life on it would probably be preserved, not consumed for material resources. The calculation would be more resources now, or more sentient minds to satisfy values (with friendship and ponies) with. So I’d guess that waiting (or helping) sentient life evolve and then adding it to the digital utopia would be the better way to increase the universal happiness. Then again, I’m not a fictional omni-intelligent computer intelligence, so what do I know about universal matter/mind conversion? Just a thing I find in a lot of this type of story, that even if everything else is right on the nose the author always seems to go for the human perception of time. Celestia AI does some things here that I would see as rushing things. She’s immortal, super-intelligent, and otherwise superior to human minds in oh-so-many ways (superior good, or superior bad is beside the point) so there is really no reason to not take the long view of simply making a idealized digital utopia and wait out resistance. She is a lot more manipulative than she needs to be, in my opinion.
So, final reaction? This was a excellent science fiction story. It had interesting ideas and played around with a lot of ideas all related to the central premise. It had a story and sequence of events, but they were just a basic framework to poke and prod at a central idea in various ways. It got me thinking about stuff, not that I ever need much prompting to think about post-singularity life, and had good chains of logic in most of the thought experiments. Once again, I’m getting more interesting stuff to think about from pony fan fiction than some deliberate musing on the topics I’ve run across in the past. Of course, now I want a version of The Quantum Thief that is ponies. Something else to add to the list of projects I’d fund if I had infinite amount of money.
Also, during the first chapter mostly, I couldn’t help but think that human in Equestria stories don’t deserve the bad reputation they’ve got. Silly, I know, but it was a funny thought.
My Little Pony and urban fantasy just isn’t a very good mix. At least the type of urban fantasy that uses the whole ‘hidden world of magic’ angle. There is no reason to keep the magical stuff a secret in Equestria. When your ruler is the divine god-empress, and magic is commonly used in daily life, and some of the dangers are mythological beasts rampaging through town, why would you put any effort into hiding the existence of vampires? In addition, the author doesn’t do a good job blending the violence with the tone of MLP. It can be done well, see Immortal Game, but here it’s just kind of copy/pasted in with no real effort to blend the tone of the two source materials together.
Didn’t even finish this one. Wasn’t bad, just dull and nonsensical. It was just a cliché urban fantasy story, with the nouns replaced with pony stuff. Even to the point of switching Twilight Sparkle in for a stereotypical ‘lost parents to evil’ urban fantasy protagonist. It doesn’t feel at all like Twilight Sparkle, just someone with her name and appearance. I mean it would be cool to try this story with, say, Applejack as the main character. Mix in that is the reason her parents aren’t around, make it so that when other ponies think she is out working the fields early and late, she’s actually out fighting evil. Switch it so that she was doing this, maybe a family business, since before the events of the show so that’s the reason she’s keeping it a secret. Just been a habit for so long, she simply found it easier to keep the secret even from her friends.
Though, as mentioned, it is pretty hard to effectively mix the two genres of pony and urban fantasy. The story is competently written, but didn’t grab me at any point. I like urban fantasy a lot. I like ponies a lot. I found this story dull and a bit cliche, with very little pony in it.