Escape Pod (a sci-fi podcast) is one of my reliable companions on long walks. A few weeks ago they had a story, Artifice and Intelligence, about a super intelligent entity called Saraswati and her human companion, Pramesh, a tech support guy somewhere in a bunker in Pondicherry. It was pretty good, though it didn’t live up to its promise-the characters were interesting, and by the time they were developed, the story was over. It didn’t really develop the social or psychological relationships between the characters, which good sci-fi seems to do economically and effectively, like the brilliant play, Harvest by Manjula Padmanabhan.
Its interesting to compare the two, since both the narratives involve First World and Third World characters, but the stakes are much higher in ‘Harvest’ and there palpable sense of power imbalances between the characters, which is missing in the artificial intelligence story. I guess its problem is that it just doesn’t seem to have that much to say. And no, it doesn’t have to be only about the Third World being exploited for its wombs or back office workers, it could be a Bollywood tech story like Transmission (which I enjoyed a great deal). Outsourcing is ripe for a ripping sci-fi story, so I am sure one will come along pretty soon, if it hasn’t already. Meanwhile, I continue to enjoy Escape Pod and its fine fare which makes my iPod, oh so worth having.