Finding Hope In Nihilism: Reflections on Echopraxia, by Peter Watts

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Let’s get the nuts and bolts out of the way first. Echopraxia is like if you took Blindsight and mixed in the best bits of Rendezvous With Rama. Hard, thoughtful sci-fi that still manages to pull off having characters that actually matter. Much like Blindsight, I’m sure I’ll keep realizing things about it after reading it three or four times. Luckily, it’s a fun ride as well.
This book is a sort-of sequel to Blindsight; you might be able to get away with reading this one first, but I wouldn’t try. Luckily, it’s available under a Creative Commons license:

There is hope in Echopraxia. Not the hope that you want, but the kind of hope that you deserve.
As I’ve gotten older, I identify more with the overwhelming of sensation experienced (as best we can tell) by those on the autism spectrum. It’s especially true with audio – I can *hear* just fine, but if there’s background noise, a television screen flickering, much any sensory distraction at all, it’s much harder for me to understand the words being said. I have a hard time being in the dealer’s hall at conventions for the same reason – too much sound, too many people, just too bloody *much*.

I feel lost. Disconnected. Isolated, alone, and left behind.

A parasite.

Just like the post-singularity baseline humans in Echopraxia.

It’s the direction we’re moving in. A world where humanity’s consciousness is, at best, irrelevant. A transitional, nihilistic world. It’s inherent in our technology. Even the impermanence of digital existence isn’t enough; we build expiration dates into our very photographs. Monuments are irrelevant and not enough; the concepts of permanence and meaning wither in the dust of our planet.

And it is there, with the horrors of our own meaninglessness and obsolescence swirling around us, more menacing than the Great Old Ones in their formless undefeatable might, staring into the abyss where we were told never to look, that we find it staring back at us.

Our hope.

Not a fluffy bunny or lamb, not an executed convict miraculously come back to life, but a hard-edged raw, naked, hungry hope.

It does not matter if you call us processes, or our emotions chemical reactions, or label us parasite or roach.

We are what we are. The fading shock of finding the abyss at our feet fades; our startled shrieks are merely mimicry of the reactions of others. It is time to step onward and be what – and who – we are.

So we open our eyes, though the abyss rages about us.

And when we look at that place they told us not to look, we will see ourselves standing there.  And we will have hope in this one simple thing:

We are.

And that can be enough for hope.

Transcendental Black Metal is in fact nihilism, however it is a double nihilism and a final nihilism, a once and for all negation of the entire series of negations. With this final “No” we arrive a sort of vertiginous Affirmation, an Affirmation that is white-knuckled, terrified, unsentimental, and courageous…. Our affirmation is a refusal to deny.

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