Singularity -- 09/28/11

I have long been a fan of Vernor Vinge.

He coined the phrase "technological singularity" to describe the point where our machines go from intelligent to superintelligent. In his 1993 essay ("The Coming Technological Singularity") he said "Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended."

In his novel True Names, he presented a detailed description of "cyberspace" (the term itself was coined a year or so later by author William Gibson) that became its common image in science fiction, in video games and movies, and in the popular imagination.

Nancy and I are trying to set a pattern of hitting the YMCA to get in a a workout on with their Nautilus equipment every second day. (You think this is a sudden change in topic? Nope. Stay with me...) We went on Sunday and then again last night (and plan to go again tomorrow). After dinner we were sitting in the kitchen. She was looking through the Providence Journal (our daily newspaper) and read an article about Google teaming up with a museum in Israel to make images of some of the Dead Sea Scrolls available online. She joked about Google ending up owning the world, noting their major project to store images of every book. That reminded me of Vernor Vinges's recent novel Rainbows End. In that book, automated machines prowl university libraries, storing the contents of every book on the library shelves in a huge database (but the books themselves are shredded in the process).

I then reach over and pick up the Arts & Living section of our local weekly newspaper (The South County Independent), realized that I had only read the first section of the paper (the "news" section), neglecting the other parts. So I began looking through it -- and on page 4 I came to the "Happenings" listing of various concerts, art exhibits, lectures, meetings, etc. And there was the following item:
Vernor Vinge, retired San Diego University professor of mathematics, computer science and science fiction, will present "Forecasting the Future -- What Do Sci-Fi Writers Know That We Don't" at 7:30 p.m. in Edwards Auditorium, 64 Upper College Road, URI's Kingston Campus. The free lecture is part of URI's fall 2011 Honors Colloquium, "Are You Ready for the Future?"


What day is it going to be? Ah, this item is listed under TUESDAY, SEPT. 27-- but wait -- t hat's today -- in fact the lecture began just about as we were leaving the YMCA! Arrrrgghhhh!

Ah well, that's what happens when you have a weekly newspaper that arrives on Thursday... if you wait until Tuesday night to read it, it may well be old news.

Looking on the bright side, this made me wonder if he might have a new book out (since many writers tend to make public appearances at such times). And, sure enough, Amazon showed a new novel with a publication date of October 11th. Okay, quickly pre-order that. So at least I know that Amazon will be shipping me his newest novel, which should arrive just two weeks after the day I missed his lecture.

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