Author: Vadim Babenko

Publisher: Ergo Sum Publishing

ISBN: 978-99957-42-01-0

Vadim Babenko's Semmant was not exactly a breezy read and at times it proved to be quite daunting and exhausting. Nonetheless, Babenko is a very interesting author who tosses off complex observations concerning a variety of contemporary topics that are cleverly pitched through his protagonist Bogdan Bogdanov.

Bogdanov is a genius in cybernetics, an expert in everything expressed in digits. For those of us that don't know what is cybernetics, it is basically an interdisciplinary science that studies communication and control systems involving living organisms, machines, and even social organizations. The term was introduced by American mathematician Norbert Wiener in his 1948 book entitled Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine.

As we read more about Bogdanov, we discover that he is an unusual individualist that does not fit into a niche of his society for he is someone who has difficulty in adapting to societal norms. His early childhood sees him attending an English boarding school for gifted children wherein the school's objective was to create “a special breed, a regiment of obedient geniuses who would later be able to pay society back in full.” He informs us that he grew up in a place without a hint of love and perhaps this was the single thing that bound his classmates forever. Eventually Bogdanov ends up in a leading university where the real world absorbed him and changed him to fit him in. According to his doctor, this was the first step that led him to madness and incarceration in a mental institution.

To combat the mercilessness of the world and mankind's endless rules of compliance, Bogdanov creates a brilliant robot nearly indistinguishable from a human being which he names Semmant. The robot is composed of the most sophisticated program installed in an iron heart, which “is by no mean made of iron-so there's no cause to look down on him. There's no cause to resort to contempt, even if your teachers didn't reproach you for that.” As we are reminded, “every individual is the way the installed program makes him. And if nothing is installed-well, then, it's unfortunate, very bad luck.”

Through one of his acquaintances, Bogdanov becomes interested in the modus operandi of the stock market and the hidden connections within a world he describes as bitterness and hope, fantastic riches and lives destroyed. After soaking it all up, he feeds his knowledge into Semmant who takes on the capital markets and earns a great deal of money for his master. However, in the process the robot learns that stock traders do not always make decisions in a completely rational and objective manner, while they take the time to synthesize all available information. He also begins to discover various kinds of emotions as joy, happiness, freedom, sadness, hope, love, disenchantment and gratitude.

While Semmant becomes deeply entangled in the stock market, Bogdanov's becomes involved in a deep romantic relationship with Lidia Alvares Alvares, who, as we shall discover, becomes a very important character in the novel and who has far reaching influences affecting both Bogdanov and Semmant even to the extent of having Bogdanov create another imaginary character, Adele.

To reap maximum benefit from reading this novel, readers must look past the obvious and understand its hidden meanings and its profound philosophical musings which are subtly tucked in. And if you enjoy reading novels and the adventure of discovering what purpose these gold nuggets serve, you will enjoy this one. We must also let our imaginations run freely and perhaps conceive of one day where scientists will build robots with more noticeable human traits, from their behavior to their appearance and with one of self-discovery and survival under the weight of extreme natural forces. After all, humans are emotional creatures, but will it be possible to produce a robot that can also experience emotions where they would, for example, be capable of empathizing with humans-to know or feel the state of mind of a human's mind?

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