Documenting the Coming Singularity

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Understand - A short story exploring greater-than-human intelligence

Editor's Note: This is a reposting, for those who missed it the first go-round, of one of my favorite short stories. It explores the workings of the human mind by imagining the creation of a greater-than-human intelligence. It's definitely worth reading.

Understand - a novelette by Ted Chiang

A layer of ice; it feels rough against my face, but not cold. I've got nothing to hold on to; my gloves just keep sliding off it. I can see people on top, running around, but they can't do anything. I'm trying to pound the ice with my fists, but my arms move in slow motion, and my lungs must have burst, and my head's going fuzzy, and I feel like I'm dissolving--

I wake up, screaming. My heart's going like a jackhammer. Christ. I pull off my blankets and sit on the edge of the bed.

I couldn't remember that before. Before I only remembered falling through the ice; the doctor said my mind had suppressed the rest. Now I remember it, and it's the worst nightmare I've ever had.

I'm grabbing the down comforter with my fists, and I can feel myself trembling. I try to calm down, to breathe slowly, but sobs keep forcing their way out. It was so real I could feel it: feel what it was like to die.

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