Brad Feld

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Book: The Three-Body Problem

Mar 14, 2016
Category Books

I read The Three-Body Problem last week and loved it. It was a little hard to get into it at the beginning and that ended up being pat of the beauty of it. I’m not going to summarize it here – I encourage you to read it – but want to talk about the thoughts it simulated.

About two-thirds of the way through the book, I had a thought while laying in bed next to Amy that we don’t have any idea how the universe works. I blurted out something like “We don’t know how the universe, whatever that means, works.” Appropriately, Amy asked “Tell me more” which is how many of our funnest conversations unfold.

I’ve been listening to the Hyperion Cantos on Audible while I run. I’ve ramped up my training again so I’m almost done with the last book (Rise of Endymion). As I absorb all of them, I think Dan Simmons has written what may end up being the most important science fiction books of our era.

When I toss creative constructs like the void which binds, the conflict between humans and cylons, and the Trisolaran’s (including criticism about how stupid they are) into a cauldron and stir it around, the stew that gets made reinforces my view that as humans we have no idea what is actually going on.

The idea the we are the only sentient beings that have ever existed makes no sense to me. Our view of time, which is scaled by a normal human lifespan (now approaching 80 years) sizes the lens through which we view things. Our daily cadence, which is ruled by endless interactions that last under a second and require almost no foreground thought, just reinforces a very short time horizon.

What if our time horizon was 100,000 years. Or 1,000,000 years. Or we could travel forward and backward through time at that scale. Or cross physical distances immediately without time debt. Or cross physical distances while varying the time dimension so we can travel both physically and through time at will. Or maybe travel on a dimension that is different than distance or time that we haven’t even considered yet.

Over the weekend, I ended up reading a few articles on quantum computing and qubits. As I was trying to piece together the arguments the authors were making about the impact on machine learning and AI, I drifted away to a simple question.

What does time mean anyway?

This might be my favorite part of The Three-Body Problem. I’m planning on reading the second book in the trilogy (The Dark Forest) next week after I finish the third book in the Red Rising Trilogy (Morning Star) to see where it takes me.