Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Science of Science Fiction: The Singularity

It looks as if I'll have to wait until next week to post a Ten-Word Tuesday, as there's other interesting topics to discuss.

Long-time readers of science fiction may be familiar with Vernor Vinge's concept of the Singularity, a time when computers meet or exceed human intelligence. Some computer scientists now think that if the current rate of technology improvement continues, we could reach this point in 2045. (Click here to read the article in Time.) I'll be 75 in that year; my son will be 38. It's entirely possible that we'll all live through this history-changing event, especially if life-extension technology, such as treatment with telomerase, an enzyme that repairs the ends of chromosomes, becomes widely available.

You can find a list of science fiction books dealing with the Singularity here, though I'm sure it's not complete. Science fiction writers have foreseen varied fates for humanity after the Singularity, everything from us uploading our consciousnesses to computers and exploring the galaxy to humans being enslaved or killed off by superintelligent computers who don't need us. It's hard to predict what will really happen, especially when other factors, such as climate change, resource scarcity, and natural disasters or wars may throw off futurists' predictions. That's why the article in Time says that if you want to know what the world will look like in forty years, "You have to think very, very far outside the box. Or maybe you have to think further inside it than anyone ever has before."

Other than your retirement funds, how are you preparing for the next forty years?


Ted Cross said...

Based upon my experience of watching humans put off long term needs for short term issues, I am expecting complete disaster. How exactly it will play out, I can't say. The sci-fi I am writing takes place in 2138 and is about society as it is recovering from all of the disasters at the end of this century.

Rogue Mutt said...

We make it past 2012 and then I'll start thinking ahead. ;-)

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Ted--I'd like to teach my son how to be flexible and how to take care of himself and others in the event of a disaster. If he's going to be an only child, I want to make sure he lives long enough to give me grandchildren. ;) Assuming he wants them, that is.

Rogue--I'm not too worried about the end of Mayan calendar. Y2K could have been much worse, and we came through that one all right.

Deborah Walker said...

Wow, 2045. Blimey. Thanks for the link. Very interesting, Sandra.

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