Big Data: A Startup Thriller Novel is a new ingenious creation by Lucas Carlson, a fiction and non-fiction author and entrepreneur, who already got my attention and won me over with his first thrilling startup novel The Term Sheet.
Big Data is a maddening ride through our near future where artificial intelligence is incorporated in our lives to the point that people rely on its services more than on their natural instincts, reasoning and decision making. It serves us, it helps us, it cures us, and then it kills us . . .
This is exactly what happens when Luna Valencia's most-advanced supercomputer in history Ancien starts to refine and improve on its own code which can “solve many problems in the world of artificial intelligence without human assistance, interpretation, or intervention.” It is the holy grail in the world of computers, but it also is the weapon for mass murder in the world of humans.
Luna Valencia's own baby becomes her executor when it falls into the hands of Doug Kensington and Thor Massino, two ill-intentioned ambitious and unscrupulous people. There is no safe place for her or anyone, because suddenly “people are dying. Everybody. Everywhere. People are dying faster all over—in every region of the world—at a higher rate.”
On her quest to uncover the truth about mysterious deaths, Luna not only faces losing her company but is hunted and chased into walking the path covered with bodies and smeared with blood, both of the innocent and guilty ones. Even losing her own life is something she has to deal with in order to stop computers from killing people. The whole world is in grave danger.
In “a weird mash-up” of computers and people, “nobody was deciding who would die. Nor was anyone determining how these people would die. The computer figured out those parts on its own. But (. . .) it was human beings who created the intention to kill. Not the computer. The one thing nobody seemed to be able to synthesize with computers was the creative intention. The spark of why. More and more, any discrete task could be better accomplished by computers than by humans. But the intention behind the task, the creative force. That was still as mysterious and intractable as the soul.”
Lucas Carlson in this extremely exciting novel also doesn't lose a poetic expression during this fast and crazy artificial intelligence ride for life and death. He barely gives us a moment or two to catch our breath before we are thrown into another life-threatening situation in which someone is programmed to die. The thin line between our near future and actual reality becomes even thinner when we come to realize that technology already today is infused in so many aspects of our lives. We submit ourselves to it, we reap its fruits and we think we control it. Do we, indeed?
Alarm bells are ringing through all 400 pages of Big Data with the warning. We better snap out of our indifference and, as the author says in his afterword, ask ourselves, “how do we prevent bad people from getting their hands on software that could potentially destroy us? The world’s next generation of mega-weapons will be software. Code in machines. Machines that drive our cars, fly our planes, control our homes, run our hospitals, and do something new for us every day. (. . .) It is time that we, as a global human race, invent and adopt systems of technological checks and balances. Software is infinitely easier to infiltrate and steal than atomic bombs. And if we sit back and do nothing—if we just throw our hands up and ignore the problem—we will have to live with the consequences. (. . .) And what’s at stake is the very survival of the human race.”