In Jurassic time, when dinosaurs reigned supreme, a reclusive alien civilization of microrobotic natural historians arrived on earth. Unnoticed, they have recorded the earth's history in magnificent detail. They have never interfered.
But government engineers in Arizona are up to something new and dangerous. The aliens must finally introduce themselves.
Matthew Crigler, a young professor of geophysics, is the first person to knowingly meet the aliens. He becomes trapped in a strange plan to make the rest of humanity aware of their presence.
Set in the near future, The Observers is a satirical and humorous story of a human race destined to coexist with a civilization of intelligent machines.
Gill Williamson home page: http://cseweb.ucsd.edu/ gill/
Gill Williamson home page: http://cseweb.ucsd.edu/ gill/ SELECTIONS FROM AUTHOR’S NOTES AT END OF BOOK:
Many readers of The Observers have shared with me their thoughts on issues raised by the story. These questions and comments have been grouped into five general topic areas: General Observations, Philosophy and Religion, Symmetric Information, Computational Issues, and UFO’s. I have suggested related Wikipedia articles, and you can find much additional information on the web. Please share your ideas as well. My website (www.cse.ucsd.edu/ gill) and email address can be located through the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, UCSD.
Comments by author Vernor Vinge (November 2008): One of the intriguing things about our era is that so many ancient imponderable questions about identity, mortality, self-awareness, are becoming concretely ponderable. Of course, in some cases the resolution may be "This question is ill-posed"!
The Observers gives us a chance to look at these questions and possible consequences of dealing with them. As the years pass (barring physical disaster that trashes technology) such stories should stay at the leading edge of insight.
Beyond even the questions of identity and self-awareness, The Observers also takes on questions about the universe as a whole. In the last chapter, The Observers brings up an interesting possibility: We, and creatures like the Observers, and all their successors, may not be (or should not be) passive players. In this view, we may be building heaven. Success in that endeavor is not a sure thing and it may forever be a work in progress (thus explaining the Problem of Evil), even involving the creation of successor universes in which higher goals are accessible.
S. Gill Williamson has served both as Professor of Mathematics (1965 to 1991) and Professor of Computer Science and Engineering (1991 to 2004) at the University of California San Diego. Now retired, he lives in Del Mar, California with his wife Ann. He has an active amateur interest in natural history. Gill Williamson home page: http://cseweb.ucsd.edu/ gill/