My review of Change Agent: A Novel (by Daniel Suarez)

Change Agent is a sci-fi novel still hot from the presses. It set in our near future (2049).

The genre has been captured by writers who love dystopian futures. Suarez can’t quite distance himself from this trend. We are in for massive climate changes and millions of climate refugees. We have gene therapies that are owned and operated by organized crime, complete with children being experimented and discarded. It is not a pleasant world.

However, there was enough in this novel to keep me interested. Some interesting bits:

  • The novel is clearly inspired by George Church work. In particular, Church’s book Regenesis is cited. The general thesis is that genetic engineering will soon supplant computers and electronics.
  • The novel pretty much embraces everything from Church’s work, save for, apparently, the possibility that we might stop the aging process. That makes for some intriguing effects. For example, in the novel, you can change someone’s genes dynamically and this results in a new appearance. However, even after changing all of your genes, and having your organs reconfigured, you somehow remain the same age.
  • The novel adopts the idea that once we can manipulate genes, parents will be eager to twice the genes of their embryos, going as far as dealing with organized crime to get the desired results. This seems very unlikely. Parents do not tend to be eager to take risks with their children.
  • It seems that intelligence can be greatly improved using genetic updates. This seems unlikely, at least by 2049.
  • The center of the world is no longer the Silicon Valley but rather Singapore. American engineers were prevented from participating in the bio-engineering revolution, but the Singapore government had no qualm about embracing the new technology.
  • Self-driving cars are ubiquitous and you can easily rent one. However, it is easy for troublemakers to stand in front of your rented self-driving car to prevent you from moving.
  • Augmented reality is ubiquitous. Some interesting applications are discussed such as the possibility that you might browse a pharmacy without having to read the tiny prints.
  • Artificial intelligence is everywhere.

I think it is a fairly realistic depiction of a possible near-term future.

Published by

Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

2 thoughts on “My review of Change Agent: A Novel (by Daniel Suarez)”

  1. > it is easy for troublemakers to stand in front of your rented self-driving car to prevent you from moving.

    For a few years now I’ve been thinking that an obvious past-time for bored teenagers in the future will be running out into the traffic of self-driving cars, with occasional tragedies.

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