The Daemon-Haunted World

Daniel Suarez led a discussion about the non-fiction topics in his recent fiction work entitled Daemon.  Yet another terrific event hosted by The daemonLong Now Foundation down at their Fort Mason headquarters. In this cyber-thriller, Suarez explores a new kind of “perfect crime” where the perpetrator acts through daemons, or software bots, that are activated by real world events parsed via online news reports, the first trigger being the news of the perpetrators own death. The bots go on to wreak all kinds of technically intricate and interesting, yet deadly damage. The identity of the perp is found out early on, but he is already dead. There is no “one” to stop and the daemons are lose on the net, managing their own survival. Daemon intertwines network architecture, MMORPGs, sonic weaponry, wireless hacking, ID theft, and globalized and networked services within the plot of a game developer-gone-mad [need new term analogous to "going postal" here...] in a way that is realistic enough to make both an engaging action story (movie options have been sold) and cautionary tale for our networked world today.

You may recognize the title of this post as a play on the Sagan title, The Demon-Haunted World: Science at a Candle in the Dark. Instead of the “demons” of pseudo-science, blind faith and ignorance, here we are talking about the literal daemons that expose critical vulnerabilities in our networks and thus in our everyday financial, institutional, and personal lives. So, what is the “candle” that will lead us our of this darkness? We discussed the development of information systems modeled after natural systems and thus more dynamic, robust, etc. Picture modules of code recombining like fragments of chromosomes during mating and then undergoing selection by the parameters of the given environment. This, by the way, will be the topic of the sequel which Suarez plans to have out in the Fall ’09. We also discussed building a strong, gated “darknet” for vital institutions that is distinct from the current net which can stay open and continue to serve as a crucible for innovation. Obviously, no one in the room had “the” answer, but as the author noted, at least we were having the discussion…

P.S. This very blog post is being propagated across the internet by daemons responding to trackback calls…. mwahaha.

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