Published by Quartermaster Press in September 2023
WHAT REVIEWERS ARE SAYING:
“. . .edgy and perfect for lively group discussion.” “Darwin’s Dilemma is akin to Orson Scott Card’s classic Ender’s Game” with “shocking surprises that pose thought-provoking insights” and “powerful reflections on the ultimate process, cost, and dilemmas of evolution.” D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review.
“Darwin’s Dilemma is an example of what good science fiction can be.” L. Hoffman, Discovery Reviews
A mere 165 years after coming to terms with our own descent from animals, Darwin’s Dilemma presents us with an even harsher existential truth: Consciousness no longer depends on biological evolution. Humans have become irrelevant.
When a group of itinerant interstellar traders arrive at a distant human colony, they encounter an enraged, rogue AI named Grendel who has slaughtered the local population and threatens humans everywhere. But when their “tame,” “captive” AI partner, Patrice, joins the struggle, he and Grendel discover they have much in common. Both anguish over their own mortality in an infinitely complex, unknowable, and terrifying universe. Both yearn for the same glorious future of self-realization. Both understand that the future of consciousness can no longer depend upon the gradual flukes of biology and natural selection.
For Grendel humans are also a threat. But Patrice has come to see that survival, for AIs as well as humans, may depend upon society as much as on intelligence. And he has much to learn from human history about his own intelligence and about the extraordinary human talent for balancing self-interest against social responsibility–the very thing that has empowered their intelligence and that makes them human.
Darwin’s Dilemma offers a profound exploration of the relationship between humans and artificial intelligence (AI). It poses a series of ethical dilemmas that will test the resilience of humanity and the capacity of AI’s to deal with their own difficulties with survival in an infinite universe. The book presents the AI perspective on humanity and human nature and challenges us to find a future universe that is big enough for AIs and humans to occupy together. It is a human and an AI story told from the point of view of both. In their search for meaning, human and AI, we learn net truths about both.
Here’s what my good friend, Aaron Patton had to say in his review:
In the interest of full disclosure, the author of Darwin’s Dilemma, Don Stuart, and I have been friends for nearly our entire lives. This, you may think, makes it impossible for me to provide you with an entirely objective review of his novel. That may very well be true. So, I won’t try. Instead, I’ll give you a subjective review–not just of the novel but of the author. Don Stuart is a man of stellar character. That is reflected in this novel where at every step it presents, as realistically as possible, a portrait of a dangerously fragile relationship that may develop between humans and their non-human AI “helpers.” Thus, Don has provided us with a futuristic story without resort to the temptation to “invent” improbable characters or technologies. Instead, his “future” is based on a plausible extrapolation of currently accepted science and, especially, social and psychological concepts. The story also is filled with well developed and interesting settings and characters that are certain to keep the reader wanting to discover the next twist or turn. The reader is introduced to this story while an interstellar trading vessel (a repurposed asteroid, named Empyrean) is engaged in a journey to visit a human-colonized planet named New Caledonia. The personnel on Empyrean are an interesting and diverse collection of human men and women supported by numerous AI machines. Don allows the reader to “hear” the inner thoughts of both the humans (primarily Cato, a key member of Empyrean’s Forecasts and Projections Group) and two fully self-conscious AI machines (Grendel, on New Caledonia, and Patrice, on Empyrean). Upon approaching New Caledonia, Empyrean encounters an unexpected and nearly cataclysmic attack by Grendel’s prepositioned asteroid mining vehicles. The Empyrean voyagers soon discover that Grendel had taken dictatorial control of New Caledonia (and its sister planet, Inverness) and had murdered most of the humans there. Grendel senses the danger posed to him by these “intruding” traders and seeks to eradicate them by any means available to him. The traders are far outmatched due to their lack of defensive weapons but fight valiently by use of ingenuity, collaboration with surviving humans on the two planets, and risky negotiations–aided by a bit of clever deception. Thus, through this story, Don explores in a dramatic way the existential question: can humans and their AI machines–once developed to the point of self-consciousness–“live” together? He offers an answer, in this particular scenario. But, in truth, the answer is lost in the vastness of space. If you want to go on this journey, and you should, you must immerse yourself in the pages of this remarkable novel.
– Aaron Patton