The Singularity won't be heaven: Annalee Newitz

IO9's Annalee Newitz takes aim at the idea of the Singularity in an essay called "Why the Singularity isn't going to happen." Newitz's objection to the idea that technology will allow us to transcend human limitation and misery boils down to this: the vision of technological utopia is insufficiently weird. It is a "[vision] of tomorrow [based on] on fantasies from the past rather than what we can glean from factual accounts of history." It assumes that technology will solve problems but doesn't consider what new problems will emerge.

I think that this may be true of people who embrace the Singularity as a scientific prediction or even as a social project, but I don't think it's particularly true of literature about the Singularity. Novels like Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End, Rudy Rucker's Postsingular and Karl Schroeder's Sun of Suns, are all about this idea of problems lurking inside the solutions. Charlie Stross and I have written two novellas, "Jury Service" and "Appeals Court," that are also about this notion (we're writing a third one now, "Parole Board," and Tor's going to publish all three as a novel called Rapture of the Nerds).

Indeed, it seems to me that in literature, the Singularity's role is to serve as a straw-man for critiquing technology as a one-sided panacea (see, for example, my interview with Ray Kurzweil on the Singularity as a literary device, a spiritual belief system, and a technological prediction).

But Newitz's critique of insufficiently weird technological prediction is spot on. Read the rest