I just read FreedomTM the second and latest book in the Daniel Suarez’s Daemon series. It was a fun, thought-provoking read and I recommend it to any technologist or sci-fi junkie (it would also make a nice Christmas gift for your favorite conspiracy theorist). This review will focus primarily on the technology of FreedomTM, but I recommend that you start with the first book, Daemon.
The Daemon series is an exploration of a could-be-now, constantly connected society. Suarez has taken cutting edge technology and inserted it into everyday life. It’s a great exploration of where our society might be headed. In many ways it reminds me Cory Doctorow’s excellent Little Brother. Cory’s young-adult novel is a great primer for hacker and maker culture. Daemon serves a similar purpose providing a primer for what a networked society that is structured like MMORPG will look like.
The Daemon series is heavy on real world tech (and Suarez has cataloged much of it). After the jump I talk about some of the technology used in the book. Although I will not reveal plot points that aren’t on the book cover, these could be viewed as Spoilers. So Reader Be Warned!
Daemon starts with the death of Matthew Sobol, a genius game developer. Upon his death the Daemon, a collection of Sobol-created bots, start to recreate society. The plot is focused on conflicts with various governments, agencies and corporation, but where these books shine is the integration of technology into society.
This alternate world is on the verge economic collapse. The main characters are constantly connected to the Daemon’s private network. They view this darknet through augmented reality glasses (sometimes contacts lenses). Any member with these viewers can learn any public information about another network member. Nearly everyone has a viewable social rank and skill level. Their society is structured around game mechanics and social rankings (similar to Cory Doctorow’s Whuffie). On this network there is a very intelligent (or perhaps just savvy) AI that helps to guide this new society.
Augmented Reality – The Daemon world is viewed through D-Space. In D-Space characters can apply various data layers to to the general public. They view their social network, medical records, and credit balances. Much of this data is already digital and could conceivably be accessible (if you’re on Facebook chances are your social network already is). Anyone with an iPhone can already view virtual data layers.
Game Mechanics – As people spend more time in the system they gain levels. These levels allow them to access more of the powers of the Daemon. These powers include network access, weaponry and technology (like better AR viewers). With more levels come more darknet credits. Similarly the more you use Foursquare the more access you have to the system and the more your suggested changes are trusted.
Reputation System – Every darknet citizen has a social ranking derived from public ratings by your peers. The score is revealed as a combination of stars (up to five) and the number of ratings. These rankings can counter-balance high or low levels when dealing with other darknet members. It reminds me a lot of an eBay seller rank, but applied to your contributions to society as a whole.
Alternative Communities – Throughout the book we come across communities that are reinventing themselves. They are communities switching from large commercial farms to biodynamic ones (some of this borrrow’s heavily from Michael Pollan’s enlightening Omnivore’s Dilemma) or they are converting to solar.