Documenting the Coming Singularity

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Does the Singularity Make Most Futurist Predictions Obsolete?

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As a long-time science fiction lover I have a wealth of visions of the future imprinted on my mind. In my mind's eye I see futures that include interstellar, faster-than-light travel; I see humans colonizing large swaths of our galaxy (very few authors have us going inter-galactic distances); there are powerful computers on board our starships. But since coming to an understanding of the singularity, these futures are all suddenly obsolete. The practical result of this obsolescence for me has been that science fiction novels, for the most part, are quite a bit less enjoyable.

Why do these visions of our future suddenly seem old-fashioned? It's because they all have humans essentially unchanged! We're still "bags of mostly water." And computers are not much more intelligent than we are. These two sets of conditions are 180 degrees out of phase with what our approach toward singularity predicts will occur within the next few decades. I mean, come on!

To be fair, the ideas associated with the singularity are still fairly new and thus our sci-fi authors, for the most part, are still ignorant about them. There must be others who are writing with it in mind, but the only one I'm aware of who has the singularity-effect included in his writing is Vernor Vinge, the man who popularized it in the first place.

So my plea is this. To the best sci-fi authors out there: Please update your visions of the future to include the singularity so that I can enjoy your work again! Thanks.

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Emerson999 said...

I immediately spring into action to plug other singularity related authors or novels, but on giving them consideration, those all tended to be transhumanistic but not really 'singularity'. Still, close enough for me. John Scalzi has some great books. I'm reading singularity sky at the moment, by Charles Stross. It uses the trick, so far at least, of having most of the plot take place among the universes equivalent of the Amish. Still, the concept of "the festival", a brand of computerized entities roaming the universe in search of novelty struck a chord as a good representation of possible motivating force for a species freed from more material concerns of food and shelter.