Modern science fiction is facing a crisis of confidence at it attempts to visualize life after the Singularity.is and accurate reflection of what I've been dealing with. It is the unbounded future racing toward us at breakneck speed from all directions.
Ah yes, the Singularity. A very real term, although the scene above is taken from a soon-to-be-published novel, Accelerando, by British writer Charles Stross. The idea was conceived by Vernor Vinge, a computer scientist and science-fiction writer who’s now a professor emeritus at San Diego State University. We’re living through a period of unprecedented technological and scientific advances, Vinge says, and sometime soon the convergence of fields such as artificial intelligence and biotechnology will push humanity past a tipping point, ushering in a period of wrenching change. After that moment—the Singularity—the world will be as different from today’s world as this one is from the Stone Age.I've actually had more than a few conversations on the singularity; is it real and what might it mean?
Yet there’s plenty to get excited about: Vinge’s vision of the Singularity springs from his own field, computer science, but change is afoot throughout science and technology. Cosmology is undergoing fundamental revisions, genetics is giving researchers the tools to rejigger the building blocks of life, and nanotechnology has begun creeping from fantasy into reality. “Several lines of progress [are] converging,” says physicist Stanley Schmidt, editor of Analog magazine. “You can’t lock in on one field in isolation because you’ll miss how other fields affect it.”These guys write it:
A new kind of future requires a new breed of guide—someone like Stross, whose first novel, Singularity Sky, was recently nominated for a prestigious Hugo Award, or his frequent collaborator Cory Doctorow, who in 2000 won the Campbell Award for best new science-fiction writer. Both are former computer programmers. They are computer geeks and gadget freaks. They follow engineering and materials science and biotech, not to mention politics and economics. And they have latched on to the Singularity as the idea that symbolizes our era’s rush of new discoveries. Whether their stories will usher in another golden age or inspire a new generation of dreamers remains to be seen, but their focus is dead-on. “Right now is an extremely exciting time because there’s an explosion of knowledge in biology, an explosion of knowledge in technology, an explosion of knowledge in astronomy, physics, all over the place,” says David G. Hartwell, a senior editor at Tor Books. “Right now it’s quantity, and Doctorow and Stross are the writers who are principally concerned with all this stuff.”And that is the crux. Which areas will dominate the change and which will lag behind. Here lagging behind becomes totally relative, but it will make a difference in the direction of change.