By Robert Charles Wilson
In The Affinities, Robert Charles Wilson describes a social network that has evolved into something even more invasive and threatening than Facebook and Google.
The premise has it that the new science of social teleodynamics has come up with complex algorithms that sort humanity into “socionomic affinities.” These proto-ethnicities have, in turn, stepped in to provide a sense of security, belonging, and identity in a secular, post-nationalist world that has also turned its back on the dysfunctional train wreck of genetic kinship and family.
Of course, things don’t work out quite as well as planned. Intra-affiliation competition is as much a product of the new world order as cooperation, and high-tech social bonding turns out to be no match for old-fashioned tribal hatred of the other.
As always, Wilson has grounded his speculations in a suspenseful story focused on real people coping with these changes. It’s a troubling vision of the future, made all the more so by the ambiguity at its heart: are the affinities a good thing? Is social media progress, or regression to a more primitive state?