How long will the Bikura culture last before they're absorbed into modern colonial society or, more likely, are simply wiped out by circumstances? (1.166)
Do we dare ask the same question about our own society?
The more I learn, the less I understand. (1.361)
Sometimes education just complicates things. (Not here, of course. We make everything simpler and better.)
I now understand the need for faith—pure, blind, fly-in-the-face-of-reason faith—as a small life preserver in the wild and endless sea of a universe ruled by unfeeling laws and totally indifferent to the small, reasoning, beings that inhabit it. (1.647)
Father Duré sees religion as a way to cope with the feelings of futility and insignificance that come with simply being alive. Does it work for him?
In 20th-century Old Earth, a fast food chain took dead cow meat, fried it in grease, added carcinogens wrapped in petroleum-based foam, and sold nine hundred billion units. Human beings. Go figure. (3.191)
For some reason, we're really craving a Big Mac right now.
[Sarai] had always felt that the essence of human experience lay [...] in the unself-conscious flow of little things [...] the sum of such hours creating a synergy which was important and eternal. (4.476)
This is a less-cliché, more evocative way of saying "it's the little things that count." So go hug your cat—and maybe upload a picture of Mr. Snookums to Instagram. That's the stuff that's going to matter.
[Johnny] told of his inability to write further poetry, […] of his retreat into something resembling catatonia combined with "hallucinations" of his true AI existence in the nearly incomprehensible (to a nineteenth-century poet) TechnoCore. (5.771)
AIs were programmed at some point in time, so it's possible that Johnny's existence is entirely predetermined. He wants to be human, but is that possible without free will?
Can an AI become... human? (5.935)
This is another "what is the essence of humanity?" questions. If Furby is alive, can robots be human? And if we can't be apart from our smartphones for more than five minutes, does that make us robots?
[Johnny] showed no expression now but I could imagine what it must be like to be facing imminent destruction of one's personality and previous existence. Even if the transfer worked, the human with the John Keats persona would not be "Johnny" (5.1052)
How would life and existence be different if your consciousness existed in cyberspace? Would you still care about the same things?
If a species attempted series competition with humanity's intellect, that species would be extinct before the first farcasters opened in-system. (6.479)
One of the darkest parts of human nature is that we tend to kill, in various ways, those who compete with us. That's survival of the fittest taken to the extreme with fatal results.
While we live in our derivative cultures, pale reflections of Old Earth life, the Ousters have explored new dimensions of aesthetics and ethics and biosciences and art and all the things that must change and grow to reflect the human soul. (6.501)
The Consul has seen how the Ousters live, and to him, the grass is greener on the other side. They're not held back by memories and nostalgia. But without memory and nostalgia, are we still human?