An interview recently released (but recorded a year ago) with writer and technoculture critic Cory Doctorow, on Reality Break podcast, has what I think is a brilliant observation about the subjectivity of contemporary issues and the concept of “the Singularity” specifically:
Science fiction is about reflecting the present not the future, so, all science fiction writers predect the present and that means they write in the style and the form of the day. And you know I think the “Singularity” right now reflects a sort of social anxiety about technical people who are slipping. You know, it’s kind of like an aprÃ¨s moi le dÃ©luge. You know, “once Vernor Vinge can’t keep up with technological progress, technical progress will no longer be keep-upable with.” And I think there’s something to that, I think there’s this feeling that when you transition from being a bright young turk to grumpy old fart that what’s changed is the world and not you, and that the world has changed in a way that is truly wrong. My friend Jim Griffon says that “If it’s been invented before you were eighteen then you assume it’s always been there, if it’s invented before you’re thirty you assume it’s the best thing ever made, if it’s invented after you’re thirty you assume that it should be illegal.”
(He also has some great discussion on why social networking software is so addictive and how absurd end user license agreements (EULAs) are by forcing us to assume a contract by our behavior–for example, those rediculous stickers on software CD envelopes (or the notices sometimes inside the envelope) that state “by opening this envelope you agree to….”)
Anyway, I find this comment about the nostalgia for the past and the fear of the future intriguing since I’ve been spending a lot of time the last year researching the “death of science fiction” (or rather, its absorption into all genre) and having spent many brain cycles on this concept of the Singularity. It’s an idea put forward by author and scientist Vinge that posthuman technology is advancing in such a way that when humans today would be incapable to perceiving or understanding the “human” of the future, humanity will have passed through the Singularity and modern human history will be at an end. This event could be when artificial intelligence has overtaken homo-sapien and we have been relegated to a “lesser” species, or when homo-sapiens have fundamentally changed via genetic manipulation and cyber enhancement.
It’s an idea that’s gaining a lot of ground both in sf and in technoculture–but one has to wonder, does putting such a connotatively fatal demarcation seperating the two not imply fear of the advancement?