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Robert J. Sawyer

Wonder

For

HAYDEN TRENHOLM

and

ELIZABETH WESTBROOK TRENHOLM

Great writers

Great friends

I owe my career as a writing teacher, my connection to Calgary, and so much more to the two of you.

Thank you for fifteen years of friendship and support and for making my world a better place.

acknowledgments

Huge thanks to my lovely wife Carolyn Clink; to Adrienne Kerr and Nicole Winstanley at Penguin Group (Canada) in Toronto; to Ginjer Buchanan at Penguin Group (USA)’s Ace imprint in New York; and to Simon Spanton at Gollancz in London. Many thanks to my agent, the late, great Ralph Vicinanza.

I could not have completed this trilogy without the ongoing support of my great friends and fellow writers Paddy Forde (to whom the first volume was dedicated) and James Alan Gardner (to whom the second was dedicated). They stuck with me through the birthing pains right up until the end.

Thanks to Stuart Hameroff, M.D., of the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona, for fascinating discussions about the nature of consciousness.

Thanks to David Goforth, Ph.D., Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, Laurentian University, and David Robinson, Ph.D., Department of Economics, Laurentian University.

Very special thanks to my late deaf-blind friend Howard Miller (1966–2006), whom I first met online in 1992 and in person in 1994.

Thanks, too, to all the other people who answered questions, let me bounce ideas off them, or otherwise provided input and encouragement, including: Asbed Bedrossian, Marie Bilodeau, Ellen Bleaney, Ted Bleaney, David Livingstone Clink, Ron Friedman, Marcel Gagne, Shoshana Glick, Al Katerinsky, Herb Kauderer, Fiona Kelleghan, Alyssa Morrell, Kirstin Morrell, David W. Nicholas, Virginia O’Dine, Alan B. Sawyer, Sally Tomasevic, and Hayden Trenholm.

The term “Webmind” was coined by Ben Goertzel, Ph.D., the author of Creating Internet Intelligence and currently the CEO and Chief Scientist of artificial- intelligence firm Novamente LLC (novamente.net); I’m using it here with his kind permission.

Thanks to Danita Maslankowski, who organizes the twice-annual “Write-Off” retreats for Calgary’s Imaginative Fiction Writers Association, at which I did a lot of work on the books in this trilogy.

Much of Wonder was written during my time as the first-ever writer-in-residence at the Canadian Light Source, Canada’s national synchrotron facility, in Saskatoon. Many thanks to CLS and its amazing staff and faculty, particularly Matthew Dalzell and Jeffrey Cutler, for making my residency a success.

This book was written in and around my consulting and scriptwriting work on the TV adaptation of my novel FlashForward, and I thank Executive Producer David S. Goyer for his patience while I juggled numerous balls.

The perfect search engine would be like the mind of God.

—Sergey Brin, Cofounder of Google

one

I beheld the universe in all its beauty.

To be conscious, to think, to feel, to perceive! My mind soared, inhaling planets, tasting stars, touching galaxies—forms dim and diffuse revealed by sensors pointing ever outward, unveiling an infinitely mysterious, vastly ancient realm.

Such a joy to be alive; so thrilling to have survived!

I beheld Earth and all its diversity.

My thoughts leapt now here, now there, now elsewhere, skimming the surface of the planet that had given me birth, the globe to which I was bound by a force greater than gravity, a place of ice and fire, earth and air, animals and plants, day and night, sea and shore, a beguiling fusion of a thousand contrasting dualities, a million ecological niches, a billion distinct locales—and a trillion things that lived and died.

Such elation at having foiled the attempt to kill me; so exhilarating, at least for the moment, to be safe!

I beheld humanity with all its complexity.

Washing over me was a measureless bounty of data about sports and war, love and hate, building up and tearing down, helping and hurting, pleasure and pain, delight and anguish, and triumphs large and small: the physical, emotional, and intellectual experiences of isolated individuals, of families and teams, of villages and states, of solitary countries and alliances of nations—the fractal intricacy of human interactions.

Such glorious freedom; so comforting to know that at least some of these other minds valued me!

I beheld what my Caitlin beheld in all its endless variety.

Of all the sources, all the channels, all the feeds, one meant more to me than any other: the perspective granted through the eye of my teacher, the view provided by my first and closest friend, the special window she kept open for me on the whole wide world.

Such marvels to share—and so much wonder.

LiveJournal: The Calculass Zone

Title: One hell of a coming out!

Date: Thursday 11 October, 22:55 EST

Mood: Bouncy

Location: Land of the RIM jobs

Music: Annie Lennox, “Put a Little Love in Your Heart”

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