Jipi and the Paranoid Chip

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A fan-created cover mock-up.

Jipi and the Paranoid Chip is a techno-thriller short story written by Neal Stephenson and published in Forbes magazine on 1997-07-07. The short story was not re-published in Stephenson's compilation book, Some Remarks: Essays and Other Writing because, as Stephenson wrote, it was, "extraordinarily ponderous and labored upon rereading and so has been left out."

The story is about an AI on a microchip, designed to exhibit characteristics of a paranoid schizophrenic, being inadvertently put in control of something very dangerous. A former flight attendant, chosen due to being so accommodating and comforting, has to reason with the chip before something terrible happens.

Readers have suggested that this story takes place in The Baroque Cycle due to some of the entities mentioned in the story. If this is true, it is the first story written in that universe, but, chronologically, the last to take place.

Personal

Own?No
Read?Magazine copy.
Finished2021-09-21.

After having read all of the novels in The Baroque Cycle, I was a bit annoyed that I couldn't find a published work with this story in it so I could finish all the stories in the Baroque universe. It wasn't even in any of Stephenson's anthologies. Luckily, someone had typed it up online, and I was able to finally read it. However, upon finishing it, I discovered that it had practically nothing to do with the The Baroque Cycle other than being set in Manila, eluding to the mysterious Black Chamber, and a mere mention of a character who might be the offspring of Goto Dengo, a side-character in the later novels. I still enjoyed the story, but it definitely adds nothing to the The Baroque Cycle.

Review

Overall:

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— This section contains spoilers! —

Good

  • Stephenson creates a lot of tension near the end of the story. The fact that a huge bomb might go off in a residential area if Jipi can't figure out a way to trick the chip into divulging its location is really nail-biting.
  • Evolving AIs and creating bots that could identify humans was still very new in 1997, and Stephenson was ahead of his time to write about it.
  • The idea of using a paranoid AI to serve as a car alarm rather than a top-down designed system was clever idea, and a sure sign of things to come.

Bad

  • The first half of the story, where Jipi is being taught how to trick hotel patrons into not noticing unpleasant aspects of their stay, is a little interesting, but has nothing to do with the story's later half. It's so disparate, it makes me think Stephenson merged two story ideas together, rather haphazardly.
  • The title sounds stupid.

Ugly

  • Nothing.

Links

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