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Ted Chiang Part 6: Vastly Superior Brains

June 27, 2021 at 8:00 pm - 10:30 pm EDT

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Étienne Fortier-Dubois leads a series of thematic discussions on the work of science fiction author Ted Chiang. In Part 6 — which you can join even if you haven’t attended the previous parts — we discuss intelligence enhancement and superintelligence.

Ted Chiang ranks among the best living authors of science fiction. Though he cannot be described as prolific — his entire published oeuvre since 1990 fits into just two books — he manages the rare feat of achieving consistent quality across his short stories. With his clear, lucid prose, Chiang plays with fascinating ideas in a fresh and often uplifting way.

In this ii Book Club series, we discuss most of Chiang’s stories over the course of several months. Each monthly Salon focuses on two to three stories, united by a common theme.

This sixth session covers three stories in which the cognitive faculties of humans are greatly enhanced.

It’s 2059, and the Rich Kids Are Still Winning” is Chiang’s most recent story, published as an “op-ed from the future” in the New York Times. It describes the failure of a program to make genetic intelligence improvement accessible to poor people in a future United States.

“Understand,” which by contrast is one of Chiang’s oldest stories, tells the tale of a man who receives a drug to heal brain damage. The drug, it turns out, is too good — the man becomes superintelligent. Using his new cognitive powers, he escapes the reach of his government and carves himself a solitary life, until he finds another similar to himself.

The Evolution of Human Science” is a short piece published in Nature. It imagines a future in which a race of improved human beings, the “metahumans,” are advancing science at a much faster pace than normal humans can keep up with. What will curious humans study, in this scenario?

This book club is open to everyone, whether you’re interested in Ted Chiang’s work, concerned with the future of human intelligence, or simply fond of good science fiction stories.

Reading List:


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June 27, 2021
8:00 pm - 10:30 pm EDT
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