The Nexus Trilogy is a postcyberpunk thriller novel trilogy written by American author Ramez Naam and published between 2012-2015. The novel series follows the protagonist Kaden Lane, a scientist who works on an experimental nano-drug, Nexus, which allows the brain to be programmed and networked, connecting human minds together. As he pursues his work, he becomes entangled in government and corporate intrigue. The story takes place in the year 2040.The Nexus trilogy – wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nexus_Trilogy
Nexus tied for Best Novel in the 2014 Prometheus Awards given out by the Libertarian Futurist Society. It was also shortlisted for the 2014 Arthur C. Clarke award. Nexus was published in 2012. Its sequel, Crux, was published in 2013. The third volume of the trilogy, Apex, was published in 2014, and won the 2015 Philip K. Dick Award. The film rights to Nexus were purchased by Paramount in 2013.
Somehow this introduction from Wikipedia doesn’t do justice to this trilogy. This trilogy was among the many sci-fi books on my to-read list. After finishing the Foundation universe from Asimov, I was interested in the idea of connecting or merging mind and other mind-to-mind technology, so this book Nexus seemed look a good read. And boy it was.
Nexus describes the world as it could be in the near future, and how society and people around the world would react to various human enhancement technologies.
First, I found that the author did a great job trying describing these technologies without embellishing them too much. The “headlight” technology of the book, Nexus, is a computer made of nano-“processor/antenna” sitting in and interfacing with the brain, able to wireless communicate to the near surroundings. The potential for abuses are great, mind control, slavery, rape, theft,… All of this are part of the plots in the books, and all these technologies brings their fair shares of sufferings and violence especially in the last one.
With that said, the author does make the point that the benefits outweighs the costs. I am biased in that I already think humans should enhance themselves by any means (in fact I think this is the only way out for us as a species), but still I think the arguments he presented are convincing. The main take away is that all this technologies are about connecting more deeply. And when you think about it, language and speech is a way to communicate more deeply, to transmit more ideas to one another; in this light, telepathy is just a step up speech, and it is not a fundamentally different change. Of course some could argue that one change is natural and the other artificial but this doesn’t actually hold against rational scrutiny.
So these books do an excellent job at convincing us that human augmentation, and especially mind to mind communication, is desirable (especially in the first book in which the author explores the argument again and again.
But what took me by surprise was the place taken by meditation in the story. Meditation is everywhere, and actually a crucial and necessary piece of the final resolution of the story (spoiler spoiler). And this is what made this trilogy so special to me. It is clear that the goal of transcendence, the goal of the Buddhist Nirvana, of tearing apart the illusion of the self, is what we should all look forward to. And the nexus nanites are presented as just a more efficient way to bring the masses to nirvana, and a way to merge individual consciousnesses into one “global mind”, a consciousness that is “more than the sum of its parts”, as Naam insist on throughout the story. Buddhist monks play important roles throughout the books, and with them, and through the eyes of the main protagonist, the author allow the reader to discover what meditation is, what it means, what it can bring. Having recently “discover” mindfulness myself and been slowly transformed by it, I particularly appreciated this marriage between mindfulness and transhumanism. The 2 should go hand to hand together. In fact, if we don’t want to get lost by technology, we want them to come together, to stay on an ethical path that doesn’t leave behind (or worse) any humans.
So the Nexus trilogy is describing a violent future. But this violence is a childbirth pain to a new state of humanity, with less suffering, more intelligence, more beauty. And while I very much hope we never come to the violence depicted there, I do wish to see humanity embrace transhumanism, go to its next step in evolution, and take the whole planet with it toward Gaia.
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