Question 4

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There ought to be a question about machine intelligence – the Drones and Minds. Is it a problem for the Culture that the Minds (such as ship Minds and the orbital Hub) have almost incomparably superior intelligence in comparison to people?

Also, is there anything else you'd like to talk about on this topic?

Comments

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    Seems to me that one of the post-scarcity features is that both people and Minds have become accustomed to this situation, to the point where it doesn't bother either group. It's almost as though there are two Cultures, one for each.

    Player of Games contains relatively little which you might term from a Mind's perspective (excluding the fact that the whole narrative is from the POV of a drone). Some of the other Culture books - I'm thinking Excession at last, and probably others) have much more of it.

    My guess is that Iain Banks initially intended to have a largely person-centred perspective, but after a while wanted to explore a Mind-centred one too. Hence the shift in later books.

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    It's obviously not a problem for the Culture because the Culture is being successful. I think it rests on what the Culture is for. It's not about expansion, efficiency, or other such capitalist-inspired value judgements. If that were the case, the Minds would get rid of all the humans and you'd be left with just a few Minds controlling much of the galaxy. Instead, the Culture is about happiness and fulfilment of its citizens. Why run a donkey sanctuary? You don't do it because of the value created by the donkeys; you do it because it makes the donkeys happy. It's a similar situation with the Minds keeping the humans around.

    As for story-telling, it makes things hard. The Minds are so much more intelligent, there's no way for mere humans to understand what they're doing or why. They also have different glands, so their emotions are different, with different causes and effects . That makes it hard to tell stories about them and what they do. IIRC, Excession came about because the fans wanted a Mind-based book. It's not a very good book.

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    I find this compelling in some ways. One thought is spurs is "what if the minds are really just a single mind which uses multiple points of contact to connect with the human race". The MIND then, is a supreme being with different aspects (like Greek gods - the God and The Devil?) manipulating its playthings in a more or less open world simulation. I think there's a fair bit of potential in there. Especially if we consider that The MIND might be insane.

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    > @Apocryphal said:
    > .... Especially if we consider that The MIND might be insane.

    Which was sort-of the premise behind Consider Phlebas (but without the interlinking of all Minds)
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    This is, btw, my first Culture book. I did read The Algebraist once many years ago, but I seem to recall that's not a Culture novel.

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    > @Apocryphal said:
    > This is, btw, my first Culture book. I did read The Algebraist once many years ago, but I seem to recall that's not a Culture novel.

    I think The Algebraist is supposed to be set before the Culture came into being. That was kind of spoiled for me because the Big Idea seemed very obvious to me on gravitational grounds early on in the story, and I kept thinking I must be missing something.
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    Excession is interesting. I didn't much like it when I first read it, but on a reread I found it far better. Not so much for the main story but the smaller stories and characters out there.

    As for the universal presence of machine intelligence, and a partnership with humans (in later books termed panhumanity - they're pretty much human but varied) as well as the superior Minds - that's pretty much the definition of the Culture. I don't think Consider Phlebas is a completely successful book, but the protagonist is from an outside the Culture and views them as enslaved by the machines.

    But the Minds are fundamentally moral beings, by design and intelligence, out for the interest of all sentients - though perhaps only in the big picture.
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    The Culture is successful for it's people because the Minds are it people and the Minds run it. The people are the mice that live in the walls. :D

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    Based solely on this book, I guess the most devious part of the Minds and the Drones is how the Drones appear to be individuals, but actually work in concert with the goals of the Minds to manipulate humans, or at least Gurgeh. I mean, three of the Drones are all the same being (Mawhrin-Skel / Loash / Flere-Imsaho) and even kindly old Chamblis participates in the deception by taking away the “remains” of Mawhrin-Skel so that Gurgeh cannot examine them. Once you think of it, they seem like individuals, but their not.

    That’s probably how Culture people seem to outsiders, though.

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