17776: What football will look like in the future by Jon Bois
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Strange and wonderful and fun to read — if “read” is the right word.
Three sentient space probes watch humanity, now immortal, pass the time by playing games that somewhat resemble football. In the process, the story considers the meaning of immortality, the effect of rules, and the creation of purpose in life, among other things — explored through multimedia that sometimes feels like found artifacts.
For the most part, this piece consists of world-building. And what a world! Football games that last millennia. Self-expression via buildings. The importance of minute exploration and observation. It’s told through revealing vignettes and occasional astonishing narratives. The tale about the lightbulb broke my heart. (No spoilers.) I understand sentient machines better now because of that story; they have their heros.
Juice, the rude and excitable space probe, showed an obvious but overlooked aspect of artificial intelligence: some of it might be much too human-like. I loved Juice anyway.
In many ways, 17776 was a daring experiment. It worked. You don’t need to like football to like it.
I think I’ll read it again.
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