"Darknet" by Matthew Mather
Like Douglas E. Richards’s Infinity Born, Darknet is a near-future science fiction thriller about the dangers of artificial intelligence. But Darknet is a much subtler, more carefully crafted, realistic, and enjoyable novel.
Darknet follows several major characters through settings as diverse as Manhattan, Hong Kong, and rural Canada as they struggle against an artificial intelligence, created by a hedge fund, that’s gone rogue and is attempting to take over the world’s financial and political systems. The science fiction concepts are interesting and well-executed; the action is usually compelling; and the characters, while still thin, are better developed than those in Infinity Born.
That said, there’s a noticeable lack of follow-through on Mather’s part. For example, one of the most fascinating ideas in the book is the notion of a decentralized autonomous corporation, a corporate entity created and run entirely by an artificial intelligence. A character briefly mentions that such an organization, if incorporated in America, would have certain rights as a “person.” That’s a really important insight, but one that Mather drops immediately and never revisits. There would be a lot of legal complications involved, but it was an idea that I thought was worth a lot more exploration.
The ending, too, is abrupt and unsatisfying. It feels as though Mather simply ran out of ideas, as though he simply couldn’t think of a new way to challenge the protagonists or how to bring the complex world he created to a suitable conclusion.
Despite these problems, I liked the book. If you’re interested in reading a novel about AI that provides an intriguing treatment of the subject, this is the one I’d recommend.