Press Release – Letting Space
A Kapiti writer’s debut novel boldly suggests that in the not very distant future the internet could develop a life of its own.
To be launched at St Peters Hall in Paekakariki at 2pm on Sunday 4 October with a discussion with an expert in computer science, Dr Marcus Frean from Victoria University, Michael Lloyd’s Complexity is a science fiction thriller that is both a page-turner and introduction to the fascinating history and complex concepts that have underpinned the development of modern computing and neuroscience.
All profits from book sales at the launch will be donated to Ozanam House, an organisation in Palmerston North who house families when members are being treated for cancer.
“I became interested in lots of big questions you rarely read about but have fascinated notable scientists for decades,” says the Paekakariki resident about his novel. “Why for example is the human brain more complex than that of any other organism? Could a computer develop a consciousness? Why organisations often display behaviour that can’t be easily deduced from the actions of their respective parts.”
In the book a New Zealand scientist Lyle Cutler works at the Complexity Institute in Sante Fe, New Mexico – based on the real life Santa Fe Institute, a research centre where today leading scientists grapple with some of the “most compelling and complex issues of our time”.
Witnessing the internet start to literally develop a mind of its own, Lloyd’s protagonist Cutler gets caught up in the hidden personal histories behind some of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of the modern era. Love and science lead him to Bletchley Park in England, the site of scientist Alan Turing’s famed code-cracking team during World War Two and the birthplace of the modern computer, subject of the recent award-winning film The Imitation Game.
Lloyd’s book is the result of his interest in complexity theory – how organisations adapt to their environment and cope with conditions of uncertainty.
“Back in 2001 I was hanging with this guy in New York who had this book called Complexity, about the Institute in Santa Fe. We were both fascinated by how life grows out of nothing. I realised I needed to write something.
“Most people don’t know about complexity, but it’s the basis of much biology and engineering. It’s something in our daily lives that we intuitively understand but don’t know how to put into words.
“I find it fascinating and inspiring – a way to view the world that makes so much sense. And out of all this I found myself asking why the internet couldn’t grow from simple connections into being alive.”
Singularity is another concept key to the book, says Lloyd. It describes the movement towards a time when machines might supersede humans as the most intelligent entities on earth.
“I’m not sure the internet will become sentient, have a life of its own, but the idea of the singularity – that machines will have better brains than our own – is something I do believe in.
On the self-published book’s mix of serious science and thriller, art critic Mark Amery has written that Complexity is as rich on observational detail as it is big on dramatic turns of events. “At its heart is a care for the complexity of our relationship with the machine, and concern for the human damage that comes with obsession.”
For twenty years Michael Lloyd’s artistic endeavours have focused on the world of sound. Primarily in mixing film, television, and documentaries, but with producing several No.1 hit singles and albums along the way. It was on his return to New Zealand from the UK 4 years ago that he embarked on writing. Michael is currently researching his second book, another science fiction thriller in which he further explores the relationships between humans and machines.
“There are many who believe we should be worried,” says Lloyd, “that by the end of this century machines will have superseded humans to the point we would be no more useful to them as apes are to us now. I can’t help feel the inverse is likely. We are rapidly replacing so many parts of our bodies with mechanical parts that we will inevitably be a biological hybrid.
“Most importantly, our minds will be able to be backed up and exist outside of our bodies. At that moment, the world will change dramatically. My intention is to explore just how such a future might look.”
Michael lives in Paekakariki with his wife Sarah, and two daughters, Amelie and Sofia.
Complexity is available for purchase at http://complexity-the-novel.com
Book Launch: Complexity by Michael Lloyd. With special guest Dr Marcus Frean. St Peters Hall, Paekakariki, 2pm Sunday 4 October