Singularity now

One of the best things about Robert J. Sawyer is the way he references pop sci-fi culture; every book contains at least one reference to Star Trek. But in this novel, second in a trilogy about the singularity—the artificial-intelligence consciousness that is predicted to arise from the Internet—he gets to reference his own sci-fi TV creation, the ABC program FlashForward. It’s fun, but even better is the intelligent and compassionate approach this series is taking to the nature of consciousness. Sawyer’s previous works on the subject have made clear that he believes it is consciousness that makes us human; his novels often cite very real research on the subject. But is it our physical being that makes us empathetic, humane and loving—as well as cruel, selfish and mean? Not necessarily. In WWW: Watch, Webmind offers a third option: the tabula rasa mind that chooses humanity.