Frequently Asked Questions
Well, since the book hasn't even been published yet, these questions haven't been asked frequently :-) But they are interesting questions, so they'll serve as the FAQs until better questions emerge. My thanks to John Gilmore for suggesting these.
The parrot is great. But parrots aren't really that smart, are they?
Parrots are much smarter than you'd expect from creatures of such small size, African Gray parrots being the smartest of the lot. Learn about Dr. Pepperberg's work with parrots and language via the the link from the references section. In the story, Solomon is the result of experimental forms of education two generations advanced from Dr. Pepperberg's current work.
The way the Dealer casually stumbles on the Mount Everest job is pretty hokey.
Although it may sound hokey, there are both good reasons and serious evidence that this is how many people and jobs will find each other on the Web once there are serious marketplaces set up. The most interesting and direct evidence comes from the pilot operations phase of the American Information Exchange (AMIX) in 1991, which was a full-featured online electronic marketplace before the Web became a famous concept. In AMIX, people could not only buy and sell traditional electronic goods like software and digital images, they could also enter into contracts to buy and sell expertise, and post RFPs and negotiate and conclude contracts. Even though AMIX never had more than a couple of hundred participants (the project was canceled because it did not fit in with corporate plans after a new CEO took over the parent company), the Dealer's Mount Everest job acquisition is based on a true-life experience from AMIX. Such "hokey" matching up of people with projects could be quite common in the future, once the Web has a mature set of ecommerce tools.
Air inside Shiva? What would air be doing inside Shiva?
The breathable air inside the Shiva follows a long tradition in sf, a tradition which is based on a legitimate series of deductive extrapolations. It goes as follows:
The robots are powered by hydrogen fuel cells. In other words, the robots breathe--the air is for them. Why would robots use air? Because the beings who built them used air, so it was convenient to make the robots work in their environment. Why would the builders have air like ours? Because if they did not, they probably wouldn't care about our planet, or about us. After all, how much would we care about creatures that live on Jupiter-like planets? As noted long ago by Poul Anderson, species will only go to war with each other if they both like the same kind of real estate.