Exhalations is a collection of short stories by Ted Chiang. Chiang is the same author behind the story that became the movie Arrival. He does a masterful job taking some fundamental sci-fi premise and then following that to its natural conclusion.
Amongst the interesting themes...
- what would have to be true for scientific consensus to align upon creationism?
- what happens if you can communicate with a 'forked' reality via quantum tunneling?
- could there be self-consistent methods of time-travel? and would that make us happier?
All of them explore the limits of reality.
The story that most sticks in my mind is around memory.
In the story, there exists device that can instantly pull up any memory and let you re-live and watch it exactly as it happened. A few gems from this story...
- The purpose of having such a device isn't telling you when you were right... it's telling you when you were wrong. The wrong beliefs are what help you learn.
- There's a difference between oral and written history. Oral history can shift, it can use different words, but have the same meaning. Today, each one of us has an 'oral' history of our own lives, we have stories that we tell ourselves. What happens if that oral history becomes written?
It did make me wonder... are people with better-than-average memory more likely to hold onto things in the past (because they remember them)? Are they also more likely to trust faulty memories because on average they tend to correctly remember more often than not.
If you are looking for a mind-expanding book that is also a fun read, I'd recommend picking this one up.