Book notes: Agency

William Gibson’s Agency is the second volume in his Peripheral trilogy. It is a fun, action-packed story, and touches on interesting themes of AI personhood and agency.

I found myself a little distracted by the depictions of contemporary tech, which felt a little unrealistic and sensationalized, and the writing didn’t live up to the burnished steel of the earlier Gibson prose that drove me to read all of his work. But it was a good story with some good thought-provoking bits, some fun characters and amusing references to recognizable San Francisco Mission landmarks. Which is to say that I give this 4 out of 5 stars in my personal book rating scale, because it is pretty damn good.

Book highlights

“Let’s check out the Mission. Like I told Gavin, the sun’s out.” “But is the world still ending?” “Not looking any better,” Eunice said.

Their tedious ambition and contempt for rule of law would bring everything down, around their ears and ours. They managed to do that with the previous world order, after all, though then it was effectively their goal. They welcomed the jackpot, the chaos it brought. The results of our species’ insults to nature did much of their work for them. No brakes magically appeared then, and I don’t see them appearing now, absent someone free to act, with sufficient agency, against their worst impulses. The biosphere only survives, today, by virtue of what prosthetic assistance we can afford it.

Riddled not with dreams, exactly, but slow-moving trains of thought, at once rickety and ponderous, the most recent having been about how much the network Eunice had left behind could be considered to be a living part of Eunice.

Authoritarian societies are inherently corrupt, and corrupt societies are inherently unstable. Rule of thieves brings collapse, eventually, because they can’t stop stealing.

The thing I found immediately in its favor, of course, was that nothing remotely like it would be allowed here. It’s a radical experiment, but performed in good faith.

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