Documenting the Coming Singularity

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Vinge's Future: A Deepness in the Sky

I've been reading, and thoroughly enjoying, the Vernor Vinge classic, A Deepness in the Sky, in which he paints a fairly discouraging picture of our common future.

If you'll recall, Vernor Vinge is credited with coining the term technological singularity, a phrase that refers to a near-term predicted future where technological development brings change so rapid that seeing beyond its event horizon is not possible.

In Deepness, as in A Fire Upon the Deep, Vernor's future is marked by inevitable cyclical rises and declines of civilizations. No civilization enjoys technology for more than a few thousand years. Every one is inexorably destroyed, whether by war, biological pathogens, or by the crushing complexity of its own automation (Vinge's word for computer programming).

One aspect of the future envisioned in these novels, however, involves what Vinge calls the Failed Dreams of the dawn age of human civilization. He speaks, through his characters, of the naive optimism of humanity's earliest years of technology, when researchers believed that they could create things like general artificial intelligence, negligible senescence, and nano-assemblers.

Of course, those of us who cheer on the singularity believe these things are not only possible, but virtually inevitable. As far and what Vernor Vinge believes, he seems to leave his options open.

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Bleyddyn said...

I'm fairly sure Vinge believes we will have some sort of Singularity, but he's also said on a number of occasions that it's difficult or impossible to write a good story about anything afterward.

Hence his 'zones of thought' in A Fire Upon the Deep which at least 'explains' why humanity hasn't been able to achieve GAI. Us being located deep in the Slow Zone. Which I think also explains most politicians, but that's another story altogether.