Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ken Liu's "Single-Bit Error" (short story, religion, free): Faith = hardware bug!

Quote from short story titled Single-Bit Error by Ken LiuFirst half just builds things up; really interesting bits are in second half.

While the story should be generally accessible to all, computer programmers can probably read more into it than others.

Story summary.

A single subatomic particle from supernova in Arthur Clarke's "The Star" has reached earth during our day, & interfered with a memory chip that is part of a car's cruise control. Result is a single flipped bit of memory - memory that held a function pointer of the then running code. Resulting accident killed one of the two passengers - the ladylove of the driver (who's a programmer).

When coping with the loss, the man reasons: "If a single-bit error on a circuit board could breach the mathematically perfect type system of a programming language ... wasn’t it conceivable that a single-bit error in the brain could break down the system of distinctions between nurses and angels?"

Since the dead girl had great faith in god, initiated by what she said was an angel visitation when she was a patient in a hospital, the man begins working out a procedure to knock a single bit off somewhere in his brain - so he can also see angels, gain faith, & be eventually united with her in the Heaven!

Fact sheet.

First published: Suman Harihareswara & Leonard Richardson (Eds)' "Thoughtcrime Experiments" (2009).
Rating: A.
Download full text from publisher's site, author's site, or as part of a larger package at Manybooks. [via StevenLP at Asimov's Forum]
Added to my best of the year 2009 list.