[ExI] Wired: The New Socialism: Global Collectivist Society IsComing Online

Damien Broderick thespike at satx.rr.com
Thu May 28 14:29:20 UTC 2009

At 04:51 PM 5/28/2009 +0930, Emlyn wrote:

>It looks to me like the leading slope of the singularity, one
>based on intelligence augmentation and borginization. The progression
>must be roughly, this communal improvement loop continues and
>accelerates, at some point we begin as individuals to augment for
>closer connection to the group (always on, less latency, higher
>bandwidth information processing abilities, entirely new social
>communication channels), this all continues in a giant feedback loop
>until what?

This is pretty much how Vernor Vinge described 
the run-up to his singularity (and vanishment of 
humans from Earth) in his 1986 novel MAROONED IN REAL TIME:

How fast could such chiliastic changes really happen? A marooned
Vinge character muses doubtfully that even in a swiftly changing world,
“there had been limits on how fast the marketplace could absorb new
developments . . . what about the installed base of older equipment?
What about compatibility with devices not yet upgraded? How could
the world of real products be turned inside out in such a short time?”
(Marooned, p. 172). Vinge seems here to start interrogating his own cool
idea only to back away hurriedly. It is a piece of narrative flimflam in
the guise of rhetorical questioning.

Yet some of the steps that make this headlong alteration thinkable, if
not altogether feasible, are sketched in Vernor Vinge’s seminal novel.
“High-tech” people from close to the Singularity wear headbands that
augment their native abilities, computer patches to the raw stuff of
evolved brains with their limited memories and even more limited attention
windows. More up-to-date scenarios by Greg Bear and Greg
Egan expect such chips to be surgically implanted deep in the brain, or
perhaps grown there using engineered cells or nanoconstuctors, or just
bypassed when humans upload entirely into computer substrates. In a
way, it’s evidence of Vinge’s own case that only a decade or two after
his proposition was announced, we already find many of his once-wild
projections rather tame and unadventurous...

“Humankind and its machines became something better,” speculates
the most advanced of Vinge’s pretranscension high-techs, “something . . .
unknowable” (Marooned, p. 176). Yet that character’s own experience at
the opening of the twenty-third century is almost incomprehensible to
us a mere two hundred years earlier at the turn of the millennium. With
his seven colleagues, he was engaged in mining the sun for antimatter,
“distilling one hundred thousand tonnes of matter and antimatter every
second. That was enough to dim the sun, though we arranged things so
the effect wasn’t perceptible from the ecliptic”—the orbital region
around the sun that contains the earth and other planets and most asteroids.
Working so far from home, he and his companions were brutally
severed from the real action, “hundreds of light-seconds away” (p. 173)

...into linkages of thousands. Is this a horrible 
prospect of soul-death, extermination
of the self? One might expect such an interpretation from a
libertarian like Vinge, but in fact he suggests otherwise: “There was
power and knowledge and joy in those companies . . .” As the Vingean
Singularity approaches, the mind-to-mind linkages and augmentations
become extreme, a form of group mind: “By the beginning of the twentythird,
there were three billion people in the Earth/Luna volume. Three
billion people and corresponding processing power—all less than three
light-seconds apart.” Inevitably, transhuman plans turn to cosmic engineering,
the creation of black hole star-gates, the implosion of entire
stars. Might this explain the Extinction? “We’d been ‘uppity cockroaches’—
and the real owners finally stepped on us . . .” (p. 177).>

(From the chapter "Science Fiction and the 
Singularity" in my TRANSREALIST FICTION, 2000)

Damien Broderick

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