Disappearing Future

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After re-listening to many of the excellent podcasts from 2005’s Accelerating Change conference, available from IT conversations; I got a hankering to read Charlie Stross’s highly recommended, and Hugo award nominated, post singularity novel Accelerando. The book is available to download under a Creative Commons license. Or rather, the book was available for download. Accellerando.org is down, and although the site itself can be accessed for now via Google’s cache, the PDF of Stross’s novel is unavailable. So too is the site which originally seeded the novels torrent, and the torrent itself. Cue whaling and gnashing of teeth re: the unsustainability of torrents.

Bittorrent, a protocol which provides an excellent method of ‘appropriating’ the latest episode of Lost, sans advertisements direct from the USA, is rather unsuited to maintaining the availability of media on the long tail. A naive, non programmer’s explanation of why this is the case follows… For a file to be available to download via Bittorrent, at least one seeder must maintain availability of a complete copy, dynamically providing portions of the file to a potential downloading ‘swarm’. Additionally, for a file to be practically quick to download, pieces of it must be available from a wide range of sources (so that individual clients can trade them directly, greatly accelerating the process), and must additionally be listed on a Bittorrent tracker server, which brokers communications between clients, and between clients and seeder.

Dispersed hosting is a weakness and a strength of Bittorrent as a distribution medium. Say what you will about the printing press, it takes far longer for paper based novels to disappear completely than for their digital equivalents to become network isolated, or become unreadable due to the march of incompatibility.

There’s a lot of buzz right now about building Bittorrent (or torrent like) functionality into consumer devices, set top boxes and the like; and little awareness of the bandwidth costs that such distribution transfers to the end user.

There have been a variety of attempts to establish an open directory of Creative Commons works, but as of right now no exhaustive list exists, and existing search methodologies are ineffectual. This is not a criticism of CC per say, which I find both useful and commendable, both as a creator (almost without exception, everything on this site is made available under a creative commons license), and an ethical (sic) user, but rather of the assumption that the internet automagically provides publishing methodologies equivalent or superior to those of traditional media.

Right now, as far as I can tell, it is essentially impossible to find a (PDF) copy of Accelerando online, as far the the internet is concerned, the novel no longer exists. Similarly, the archive of episodes of Technolotics will effectively disappear forever in the ether, if I ever fail to pay a hosting bill (already rather overdue I’m afraid).

Update: After some further searching, I did manage to find a lone floating copy – download here – of Accelerando, which neatly solved my immediate problem. Astute readers will note that this doesn’t invalidate my original point. To ensure the novels continuing availability (I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume Accelerando.org’s servers have been consumed by some sort of singularity), I’m hosting the file myself. Download link, and copyright notice, after the break.

Download: Accelerando – by Charlie Stross.

This work is Copyright © Charles Stross, 2005.

This text of this novel is made available, with the kind consent of the publishers, under the terms of the Creative Commons deed, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5: You are free: to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work under the following conditions: Attribution. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor.

Noncommercial. You may not use this work for commercial purposes.

No Derivative Works. You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.

For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work.
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/legalcode If you are in doubt about any proposed reuse, you should contact the author via: http://www.accelerando.org/

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3 thoughts on “Disappearing Future

  1. Cheers for the recommendation mate, I’ll add it to my hideously proprietary ‘Zencast’ podcatcher’s queue.

    Whats your view on all this transhumanist, technoutopian business?

  2. I think I agree with Ray Kurzweil that advances in neural imaging and processing power will allow us to create a fully functional simulation of a human brain in next 10 years or so. But I’d bet that AI people will create a principled system with at least the abilities of a human even before that. I don’t come from a totally ignorant position in making that prediction.

    I’m not very good at imagining what the world will be like when computers can do anything a human can do. That’s someone else’s job. I like to believe in a techno-utopia but all I know is the change in how the world works will be ENORMOUS. Those in the “soft” sciences better get imagining and preparing everyone for that change.

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