A supermind and a super childish human rule in Utopia, LOL? by Jamie Wahls

This is fourth review of Nebula Award nominees for short fiction. You can find the other reviews here, here, and here

Somewhere and somewhen in the great unknown a supermind is sending humans out into space to explore the vastness it is forbidden to explore itself. To make the experience more palatable for the humans who are returned to life from the cryogenic ice, another human (of sorts) is assigned to guide them. This guide, Kit/dinaround (aka Kit), is the main character of Jamie Wahls’ Nebula Awards-nominated story “Utopia, LOL?“.

Kit is assigned to guide Charlie, a revived human, into this future where universes proliferate and can be visited through a process of transferring consciousness to any of those universes. The technology is minimized, with transferring consciousness seeming as innocuous as a brain scan. The bigger issue is why Kit is a guide in the first place. She is incredibly childish, which makes one wonder what purpose she serves. Is she supposed to represent innocence? The joy of living as expressed from a child’s perspective and innate curiosity?  Kit’s childishness doesn’t inspire much confidence in Charlie although she is nonthreatening and seems to reassure him somewhat simply by her presence. She inspired nothing warm and fuzzy in me as a reader.

There is no real world building in this story because reality is as fluid as the qualities of any particular universe, but the reader is asked to buy into the notion that the universe beyond our solar system is unknown to the AI, due to programming rules that are in place to keep humanity safe. It becomes clear that 1) humanity isn’t safe but it continues, kind of, and 2) manipulation of the rules is the number one activity of the Allocator.

The story is on that dangerous slope where the possibility of altering literally everything  creates insanity-breeding loops in reason and meaning. I wasn’t crazy about it. Charlie eventually “chooses” to take off and probe the greater universe–just as the Allocator wanted. Not even Kit’s cuteness and unlikely realization that she has been manipulated by the Allocator for a long time, made even more preposterous by her decision to continue in this role, was enough to allow me to make peace with this story.

It wasn’t for me, but if you like AI stories you may find this story worthwhile.

Thumbs down and 2.5 stars out of 5.

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