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[techbooks] REVIEW: "Memory", Lois McMaster Bujold

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  • Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Tr
    BKMEMORY.RVW 990506 Memory , Lois McMaster Bujold, 1996, 0-671-87743-7, U$22.00/C$29.50 %A Lois McMaster Bujold %C P. O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 12, 1999
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      BKMEMORY.RVW 990506

      "Memory", Lois McMaster Bujold, 1996, 0-671-87743-7, U$22.00/C$29.50
      %A Lois McMaster Bujold
      %C P. O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
      %D 1996
      %G 0-671-87743-7
      %I Baen Publishing Enterprises
      %O U$22.00/C$29.50 jim@...
      %P 462 p.
      %T "Memory"

      Bujold's books, and particularly her "Vorkosigan" series, are a
      delight to read. While sometimes politically complex, they are
      socially simple, with well defined good guys and bad guys. Humour,
      mostly ironic, is abundant. There are enough plot twists to keep you
      turning the pages, but there are also clues enough to keep you
      guessing at the development, with little use of the "deus ex machina"
      to get the author out of a hole. As with any good series, there are
      similarities enough between books to make the reader feel comfortable.

      The main technology of this particular book is the "memory" of the
      title. This is a brain implant that augments the memory of the
      bearer, recording input and playing it back, providing the carrier
      with an artificially eidetic memory. The psychological aspects of
      such a device are nicely examined: the likely confusion of learning to
      control an additional memory, better than one's own, and the
      difficulty of learning to live "impaired" again once it is taken away.

      The technology of the chip itself is not dealt with in great detail,
      of course, but there are some interesting points. The chip (actually
      more of a large scale multichip module) is made of a combination of
      organic and inorganic parts. One assumes that this description
      reflects the current interest in biotechnology, and a frequently made
      speculation that organic computers will be better than the current
      silicon beasts. In fact, while organic computers may be able to
      perform parallel calculations, they are probably ill-suited to data
      storage. DNA-like structures can store a lot of data very compactly,
      but the writing, and particularly retrieval, of the information
      probably would not be very fast.

      Indeed, the total volume of such storage would have to be immense.
      Thirty years worth of full motion, wide field, high resolution
      "video," plus audio and tactile, would make for an awful lot of bits.
      Quantum memory might be more suitable. Or something else entirely.

      Which brings up an interesting point to do with most science fiction:
      it's too tame. The series is set in the far future when colonies have
      not only been set up on distant planets, for generations, but when
      some of these colonies have been "lost" for a while before being found
      again. Yet the "comconsoles" seem to bear a remarkable resemblance to
      desktop PCs. Pocketbook sized reminder devices are only smart enough
      to recognize speech and do a little filing. Surely by this time such
      simple machines should have shrunk sufficiently to be woven into
      clothing, or even to be injected internally. (Which makes the need
      for a memory implant a little more problematic.) Boxes of pills can
      be flagged for inventory, but the individual pills can't. (We have,
      in our own day, tracking and inventory devices only about the size of
      a legible letter. We also have the beginnings of technologies that
      will be able to track *all* movements in high security environments,
      and identify individuals.)

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 1999 BKMEMORY.RVW 990506

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