Review: Avogadro Corp

Avogadro Corp Avogadro Corp by William Hertling
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Avogadro Corp is a cautionary tale of sorts. The corp, which is a not even thinly veiled pseudonym for Google, is the world's chief search engine and email provider. A group within the company has developed an add-on for gmail that can optimize the content for greatest success. When an engineer modifies the code to allow it to fully generate messages and gives it the goal of promoting the add-on's survival, it becomes incredibly successful to everyone's horror and fascination.

This story is on a seesaw between potential plausibility and utter ridiculousness. On the one hand, I can totally foresee a time when language analysis and processing leads to an engine that can analyze our messages and both effectively emulate our voice as well as assess the recipient and give guidance for best message reception. On the other hand, expecting any business arrangement, let alone government contacts, to be signed and completed in a week's time is completely unbelievable. Further, I can suspend belief that a language analysis engine might learn general topics that either improve or degrade the content of a message to a given recipient, but can't accept that the next logical step is that it would lead to that same engine understanding how to direct engineers to create an API to bridge security gaps and then utilize that bridge. I found the technical discussions of the concept for ELOPe to be mildly interesting, but much of the rest left me wanting.

The characters are bare sketches badly in need of color and texture. I'm not sure if this was the author's intent, but I get the sense that the central figures lacked a real sense of urgency when confronted with the rogue AI and it's actions. For instance, we find the team at a coffee house, espousing the quality of the bean just as they have gotten together to discuss how ELOPe has directed for it's own improvement. Perhaps this was intended to reinforce Mike's quirk of being a coffee fanatic, but it feels out of place. Gene is a Luddite in the most literal sense, and it grated on me that his interactions with others always used terms like 'boy' or 'kid' to help emphasize how out of touch and old he was. Worse was that in response he would get 'dude' from the coders, which was out of character from their other conversations.

In short, there's an interesting core to the story, but it is veiled in weak storytelling.

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Jade Mason