Sunday, February 04, 2018

A Political History of the Future: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz, at Lawyers, Guns & Money

The first proper installment of my Political History of the Future series is up at Lawyers, Guns & Money.  The topic this time is Annalee Newitz's first novel Autonomous, about a corporatist future in which humans and sentient machines alike are subject to a system of indenture in which freedom is a thing to be purchased.
The title of Autonomous is a pun, and a thesis statement. “Autonomous”, in our understanding and in the current common usage, refers to machines that can function without human interference–autonomous cars, most commonly. Despite its connotations of freedom, it’s a designation that denotes inhumanity. It isn’t necessary, after all, to specify that a human being is autonomous. In the world of Autonomous, this is no longer the case. Its citizens–human and machine–are distinguished as either autonomous or indentured. So a word that connotes freedom becomes a reminder of how it can cease to be taken for granted, and a usage that connotes inhumanity is transformed in a world in which personhood is a legal state and not a biological one. In both cases, it’s a reminder that the hard-won ideas of liberty and human rights that we take for granted are not set in stone; that core assumptions about how society could and should function can change, in many cases for the worse.
Read the rest here.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'm really looking forward to this series on LGM.

The reason I'm leaving this comment though is that I just binged a season and a half of The Magicians while down with the flu, loved it, and then immediately wanted to know what you thought of it. I was disappointed to find that you gave it a look when it came out and didn't care for it. It also sounds like the book, which I haven't read, is pretty rubbish.

But I really like this TV show!

The core cast are all fantastic. Jason Ralph even does the impossible and makes sad-sack rich white guy Danny Rand... uh, I mean Quentin Coldwater fun and interesting to watch.

The show is also really smart about sex and romance. Which is astounding coming from the channel that gave us Mansquito. The most compelling pairing on the show is a gay man / straight woman couple. There's a whole episode about a character who is a survivor of covert incest learning how to advocate for her own sexual pleasure in her relationship with Quentin. As a result the show is actually sexy because the characters' sex lives feel real and exciting and risky.

It's also actually funny, and actually scary, and can go back and forth nimbly. The writing is just remarkably sharp all around.

It's also really interesting in it's treatment of trauma, which is one of it's primary themes. Of course, it has that in common with most of the genre shows on TV these days, but there's something different here, something subtler, which I'm sure your critical abilities could articulate in a way I can't.

As heretical as it sounds, I really think this show can withstand comparison to Buffy.

If any of that piques your interest enough to give the show another look, and maybe write something about, I would suggest episodes 10 and 11 from the first season for a compact example of what I'm talking about. And I would love to have you set me straight if this is all just a figment of my flu-addled brain.

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