Existence by David Brin


A big metal fan
Jan 3, 2020
Ultimately, Existence (2012) is about communication. This book really captured my attention when Sato discusses the tower of babel with Tor. Maybe most people conjecture that it was an act of fury, I haven’t really thought about it. Sato, meanwhile, considers the tower to delay progress- by diversifying our language, we have only recently begun to work together across the diaspora of culture… I rather think it was good for us to slow down and force us to think about obstacles hindering our progress, because too much too fast is definitely a trajectory toward extinction.

Speaking of which, what I like about Brin is that he can be very skeptical. I’ve really been dabbling in a lot of skeptic literature lately. So, getting into that, I’ll outline the plot a little bit.

While relics, artifacts and other curiosities are uncovered in Havana, Asia, etc. Which can speak, and claim to be transmissions from ET’s communicating with Earth. They inspire believers and skeptics both to consider the implications, posting questions on message boards for this entity (one artifact is a buddha figure, and the other is an animatronic parrot). In Asia, a farmer named Peng Xiang Bin has discovered a rock, the Livingstone Object, and this is believed to be the true feedback from true ET’s, while the others must be ersatz, considering they’re throwing out chain letter’s. The stone only speaks to Bin, in Putonghua. What do the aliens want?

Meanwhile, Hamish something-or-other is a spokesman and celebrity outspoken against the “curing” of the autist/savant plague overtaking Earth. While scientists are pushing in a direction to take away what makes us unique, and even for longer life, Mr. Hamish, in audience of some 40,000 people, offers his conclusions. Then he starts another dry dialogue about his speech about the old 2 party left/right rhetoric that it’s sort of a washed out paradigm from the French monarchs or whatever. He also said something about people having too much time on their hands and nothing doing. Then he made an ass out of himself. Not a likable character, but I liked his opinions.

Here’s where it gets good. The messages from the Havana Artifact and the Livingstone Object start to become ominous. Whoever is sending the broadcast is claiming wide-spread extinction of the human race, What? You thought yours would survive? I myself fall into a category of a doom-and-gloom eschatology. Not that I’m not optimistic, but like Brin, I find that we aren’t so special to transcend nature itself. Brin writes about all of the star systems with sentient life on them, somewhere, but none have circumnavigated the stars. It seems like an impossible task. When I look at our industrial civilization, I see eyesores that will decay with centuries and eons. I sort of think that after the Anthropocene Extinction, new lifeforms will take its place. Maybe reptiles will come back!

Somewhere out in the asteroid belt, cyborg Tor Povlov is on a scouting mission for something-or-other, and finds alien mummies! How cool is that. Err- spoiler alert, I guess? Everyone’s looking for her, they need her help. Riots are happening down below, and Gerald something-or-other needs her help. Another point Brin makes is that people nowadays have a dependency on the chemicals that are released when we are online. People get high even off of being a ‘self-righteous junkie’, etc. Myself, I just use it for some banter. Until I came here I was only clocking about 3 hrs. screen usage a day, because I was too busy reading.

Anyway. This long book sat with me for a while, and when I couldn’t focus on it I saw what was happening on here/ nothing much, admittedly. We have to make our own fun, don’t we? It was an enjoyable novel, but for such a long book, not a must-read for me.
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