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Monday, June 09, 2008

The Guardian interviews science fiction writer Charlie Stross. Here he is on the Singularity, subject of his recent book Accelerado:

Perhaps the strangest future predicted by science fiction writers is the Singularity - an idea that is already "old hat" for Stross. This concept was more or less invented by scientist and author Vernor Vinge, and started with a simple insight: If an artificial intelligence can be created on computers, it can in turn design more powerful computers to create more powerful artificial intelligence and so on at an ever accelerating rate until we arrive at the Singularity - a point where technological change happens so quickly that it irrevocably alters human existence. A powerful idea, but as Stross is the first to point out, not one that science fiction has always treated with the scientific rigour it deserves.

"A whole bunch of extra cruft accreted rapidly around Vinge's idea, which was misappropriated and misunderstood by many writers," he explains. "Along with the idea of nanotechnology, the singularity became a substitute for magic pixie dust that could do anything, and a placeholder for what author Ken McLeod dubbed 'the rapture of the nerds'."
Like all good science-fiction writers, Stross has a blog.