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"[Science fiction is ] That branch of literature which is concerned with the impact of scientific advance upon human beings."
- Isaac Asimov

Maelstrom  
  A description of the next generation Internet  

The word "Internet" seems like a tame description of data sharing by patient academics in search of the right file. "Cyberspace" is a bit more evocative. But what do you call it when all of the world's data channels are churning with self-guided, almost self-aware autonomous agents?

And so viruses begat filters; filters begat polymorphic counteragents; polymorphic counteragents begat an arms race. Not to mention the worms and the 'bots and the single-minded autonomous datahounds—so essential for legitimate commerce, so vital to the well-being of every institution, but so needy, so demanding of access to protected memory. And way over there in left field, the Artificial Life geeks were busy with their Core Wars and their Tierra models and their genetic algorithms. It was only a matter of time before everyone got tired of endlessly reprogramming their minions against each other. Why not just build in some genes, a random number generator or two for variation, and let natural selection do the work?

The problem with natural selection, of course, is that it changes things.

The problem with natural selection in networks is that things change fast.

By the time Achilles Desjardins became a 'lawbreaker, Onion was a name in decline. One look inside would tell you why. If you could watch the fornication and predation and speciation without going grand mal from the rate-of-change, you knew that there was only one word that really fit: Maelstrom.

From Maelstrom, by Peter Watts.
Published by Tor in 2002
Additional resources -

Thanks to Alex Mair for submitting this item along with references and a quote.

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