Daily Archives: May 25th, 2007


It’s 2045 and nerds in old-folks homes are wandering around, scratching their heads, and asking plaintively, “But … but, where’s the Singularity?” Science fiction writer Vernor Vinge–who originated the concept of the technological Singularity–doesn’t think that will happen, but he explores three alternate scenarios, along with our “best hope for long-term survival”–self-sufficient, off-Earth settlements.

Ever since is I started the journey down the road of transhumanism, I took for granted that the Technological Singularity as a matter of fact. We see the signs now, faster computer speeds, smaller chips, nanotechnology starting to take off and so on. But what if the Singularity doesn’t happen? What would cause it’s failure? War would for example, biological and/or nuclear. Environmental disasters is another good one (global warming, ice age in Northern Hemisphere) and asteroid strikes that are planet killers are a sure show-stopper.

Mathmetician and science-fiction author Vernor Vinge is the modern coiner of the term ‘Singularity’ as it pertains to life changing and evolutionary possibilities for mankind. The following is part of a lecture he gives and tries to answer the question; “What if the Singularity doesn’t Happen?”

Given the title of my talk, I should define and briefly discuss what I mean by the Technological Singularity:

It seems plausible that with technology we can, in the fairly near future, create (or become) creatures who surpass humans in every intellectual and creative dimension. Events beyond this event—call it the Technological Singularity—are as unimaginable to us as opera is to a flatworm.

The preceding sentence, almost by definition, makes long-term thinking an impractical thing in a Singularity future.

However, maybe the Singularity won’t happen, in which case planning beyond the next fifty years could have great practical importance. In any case, a good science-fiction writer (or a good scenario planner) should always be considering alternative outcomes.

I should add that the alternatives I discuss tonight also assume that faster-than-light space travel is never invented!

Important note for those surfing this talk out of context 🙂 I still regard the Singularity as the most likely non-catastrophic outcome for our near future.

To read the rest, it’s here.