Science "Fiction"

Daemon book coverI can not heartily enough recommend Daniel Suarez’s Daemon. A Daemon is a computer program that runs in the background and performs certain system-controlling activities at certain pre-arranged times. In the book, written by a computer guru and gushingly endorsed by the likes of Craig Newmark/Craigslist and Stewart Brand/The Long Now Foundation, a renowned computer scientist-game designer dies and, after his demise, unleashes the Daemon, which disrupts the world as we know it.

There are a few things which boggle the imagination such as fleets of robotic cars acting with amazing intelligence, but all in all the scenarios played out seem terrifyingly realistic—in fact, on a modest scale they are underway as I write. While we know what’s going on in the background is frightening, and William Gibson fans have been reading somewhat like material for years, something about this rendition sent chill after chill up (down?) my spine. Indeed, said sad spine is that of a cyber-amateur; but I think even the pros will find the book compelling—incidentally (?) it’s teenage gamers who are most adept at dealing with various conundrums, while well-trained but ancient (30s??) FBI-ers and NSA-ers are out of their league.

Oddly enough, the day I finished the book, May 18, the Wall Street Journal ran a page 1 feature titled “Ups and Downs Whipsaw Supply Chain.” It describes in gory detail the effect of vast interconnected systems of just-in-time management that have led to all sorts of glitches in manufacturing—a plant running fullspeed is flummoxed by three vendors whose hasty, independent decisions to slash inventory bring the downstream manufacturer to a screeching halt while the manufacturer’s market is still robust. Hence the downstream manufacturer cannot meet demand, and the economy takes yet another hit. Of course the Wall Street fiasco was started and accelerated by genius programmers whose programs effectively (and automatically) took over global financial markets.

This book demonstrates, at least to me, that we are in for one wild ride.