What is consciousness?
If one was made by humans, assembled from pieces of metals and synthetic skin, equipped with intricate codes in order for them to feel and decide, do you consider what they have as consciousness?
What if there’s a living being, look exactly like you, feel exactly like you, but was born in a lab? Grown in a tube, replicated by the hands of humans. They have the thing that you called consciousness inside their minds.
Do they belong? Are they real?
Wayfarer #2: A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers tackled the topic of consciousness pretty hard. There are 2 main characters, #1 is an AI, once belonged to the ship of Wayfarer, but something happened, and the AI was now being moved into a body, a body that resembled humans, but really, it’s just a synthetic body. #2 is human, living her life as a resourceful technician in one of the busiest planets in the galaxy, but she wasn’t born from a mother, she wasn’t grown in a womb, she was made, fabricated to do a particular job, along with her other ‘sisters’, but then she decided to choose her own identity and made a name for herself.
Life at the galaxy wasn’t ready yet to accept their existences, so they had to find a way to hide from the system, to pretend, and yet the more that they hide what they are, the more they had to face the big questions: what are they? what are they to the world? what should they do, now that they could feel and move and do things for themselves?
If I had to choose one word to describe Wayfarer #1 The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers that would be: “loaded”. So many characters, so many possibilities, so many things to take all at once. The new world, the new moral standards, the new thoughts, it’s like one is forced to open his/her mind in an instance. It’s fun (for me), but it’s a lot.
And if I had to choose one word to describe Wayfarer #2: A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers, I think that would be: “philosophical”. The story was much calmer, more chill than the prequel, but right from the first chapter, this book is making me ask myself many questions about humanity and consciousness: What are connections? What is feelings? How should you approach a memory/relationship/heartbreak/happiness and all the feelings that were built by codes? This book is somehow making me rephrase in my head that this world is so fragile: a blip in a system, a blow to the head, a change of protocol, could change everything’s about you. An AI may have a reset button, but we do have a reset button too, deep into our head, just a flick, just a gulp, that’ll do.
Who decides that one is more real than the other?
Because I think too much (I always am), this book feels like an enjoyable ride at the theme park. The topic is my niche. I’ll jump right into the conversation whenever I heard a mention of consciousness and all the existential crises that made our mornings go sour but the nights are endless (which is good — for me).
There are fewer quotable quotes in Wayfarer #2 (i love quotes!), but I give this sequel a higher score than Wayfarer #1. I recommend this book to all the thinkers out there, a fan of Westworld, a fan of Blade Runner, a fan of Her (Samantha! Joaquin Phoenix!), basically most of this century’s sci-fi pop culture fans, come gather and read this book, I think you will all love it!