I finished Shockwave Rider by John Brunner this week. I absolutely loved this book. It was interesting that 30 years after writing it a lot of it rings true as a description of current life. The technology is different, of course, but the feeling that people have of being overwhelmed and out of control in the book could come from our daily American lives. It was a great read, and I think the final two political propositions are highly relevant today:
- That this is a rich planet. Therefore poverty and hunger are unworthy of it, and since we can abolish them, we must.
- That we are a civilized species. Therefore none shall henceforth gain illicit advantage by reason of the fact that we together know more than one of us can know.
I found it interesting that this shares a conceit with a story by Damon Knight, “I See You.” In each, what seems like it could be a dire oppressive lack of privacy – basically anyone can find out anything about anyone – leads to a completely equitable information sharing utopia. The point as I interpret it is that most of the issues and ills we associate with lack of privacy are really about inequitable distribution of information. It’s not that people can find out things about you, its that they do without you finding out the equivalent about them. Anyone can find out your information and try to do something with it, but then you can also find out that they did it, so ultimately there is a completely even, universal civility that settles in. It seems unworkable, but it is a nice image to keep in the head.
I’m very happy I read it, and almost every word was read listening to the Sine Fiction soundrack for it over and over. I highly recommend both the book and the music.