Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Last Evolution

Short Story by John W. Campbell Jr.

A somewhat dry history of the human and machine war with an invading alien threat. The humans lose and are wiped out, but leave behind machines which continue to evolve. In fact, this appears to be one of the first seeds of the technological singularity idea: Humans create machines smarter than them, who themselves create new even smarter machines, and so on.

The overall money-quote of the story:
"Most of mankind were quite useless"
There is a bit of a theme regarding human inefficiency and how great machines are, but the POV character is a machine, so a justified bias.

I don't mean to pick on Campbell too much, as it was first published in August, 1932, but the physics is hilariously bad. One of the joys I got out of this story was just how terrible the physics was.

Also, there was a segment that reminded me of The Colour Out of Space by Lovecraft.

Overall, not a great story, but interesting in that the singularity was introduced as early as 1932. And that things developed beyond that. Obviously some of my faults with this are just a product of the time, but it still isn't a great story. 2.5 Ultimate Energies out of 5.

Campanella does some great voices in this episode. I honestly think he may have read too slowly or something though, I can't identify how much of the dragging sensation was the reading, and how much the story. It does drag when being read as text, but I think it is slower as audio. Campanella's voicework was great, but I'm not sure it paid off overall.

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