Summary of the book:
Award-winning author Robert J. Sawyer continues his "wildly though- provoking" science fiction saga of a sentient World Wide Web. Webmind is an emerging consciousness that has befriended Caitlin Decter and grown eager to learn about her world. But Webmind has also come to the attention of WATCH-the secret government agency that monitors the Internet for any threat to the United States-and they're fully aware of Caitlin's involvement in its awakening. WATCH is convinced that Webmind represents a risk to national security and wants it purged from cyberspace. But Caitlin believes in Webmind's capacity for compassion-and she will do anything and everything necessary to protect her friend.
Where dystopias and post-apocalyptic worlds clutter the shelves in science fiction with the errors of humanity, Sawyer’s WWW accepts the fault in humans and brings hope for change.
Watch picks up where Wake ended. In here, Webmind not only begins to develops cognitive abilities exponentially, but through the help of Catlin begins to develop its sense of ethics and, without being too maudlin, an understanding of "the meaning of life." This novel is primarily about this development, along with government agencies trying to figure out how to shut Webmind down, fearing it will become so powerful it will destroy mankind. Yes I mentioned governmental agencies - always the spoil-sport.
"Watch" is coincidentally a governmental agency that has put it upon itself to wipe out the Webmind (the AI), regardless of no proof that the Webmind means harm to humankind. In fact, Webmind finds that humans are fascinating creatures and realizes that if humans are wiped out, eventually he would be too perish. Overlayed on this tale is the story about Hobo, the intelligent chimp/bonabo crossbreed. Hobo starts to get violent towards the woman who is responsible for him and the scientists have to decide what to do with him. Meanwhile, through Dr. Kuroda, the Webmind is able to view more than text files on the internet and branches out to sound and video files. Eventually, the Webmind witnesses a teen suicide through the net. Caitlin becomes furious at it because it didn't intervene.
The book delves into so many topics together that it is almost mind-boggling to follow but it does it in a way that is easy to relate to and follow. So few books release everyday that make you want to ponder your knowledge of the world - well this is one of them. Racism, animal rights, GLBT rights, the privacy act, national security, international politics, and human rights and differences between artificial intelligence and emerging consciousness, autism, blindness, suicide, and the question behind how emerging consciousness can override natural selection and evolution were some of the deeper issues were touched upon by this book.
This tale has WATCH involving other governmental intelligence agencies in the investigation. Caitlin and her associates are interviewed by agents trying to discover Webmind's nature. And as usual with a lot of novels centering upon AI these government organizations want to disperse the entity even before they know its nature - just because it has a capability that far exceeds their own. (Although yes I understand that up to some extent this may be a standard protocol for the intelligence agencies but yes they do tend to poke their noses were they are not welcome)
General complaint about second books in trilogies is often the least exciting or action- or drama-packed, because it often serves as a bridge between the beginning and the end. Not so with this one; Sawyer manages to make mince-meat of that common complaint. Sawyer continues the great storytelling from Wake, discussing the concepts of game theory, and what a sentient presence on the Internet could really mean for the world in his comfortable, conversational way.
Overall it is an enjoyable and an easy read and maybe a much better book that its predecessor and I'm definitely starting the last book of the trilogy Wonder as soon as I finish my currently reading pile.