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Venor Vinge profiled in NY Times

from the proficient-prognosticators dept.
A profile of computer scientist and noted science fiction author Vernor Vinge appeared in the New York Times ("A Scientist's Art: Computer Fiction", by K. Hafner, 2 August 2001): "Vernor Vinge, a computer scientist at San Diego State University, was one of the first not only to understand the power of computer networks but also to paint elaborate scenarios about their effects on society. He has long argued that machine intelligence will someday soon outstrip human intelligence." Vinge also developed and popularized the concept of a technological singularity — the lower slopes of which many now believe we are climbing.

Note: Access to the NYT website is free, but may require registration.

3 Responses to “Venor Vinge profiled in NY Times

  1. Practical Transhuman Says:

    Admirable guy who nearly missed his "time."

    Vinge's modesty is refreshing compared with some Transhumanist intellectuals I could name. Too bad True Names seems bit dated by now, though perhaps the wider, non-nerd culture is about ready to assimilate its perspective.

    Because enough regular people have integrated the real-life Web into their lives, while responding well to The Matrix, The X-Files, and even to the Harry Potter novels, they shouldn't have any trouble relating to the world of Mr. Slippery.

  2. pethorne Says:

    Re:Admirable guy who nearly missed his "time."

    Practical Transhuman wrote on 2-Aug-2001:

    Vinge's modesty is refreshing compared with some Transhumanist intellectuals I could name.

    I've met him at two SF conventions, and he was very pleasant in person, relaxed, happy to chat. (Which means nothing in isolation; there are probably techno-economic radicals who are just as low-key in face-to-face conversation.) Buttonholing him after panels, I was able to get tips to illustrate some of the ships and aliens from his fiction. (He has very specific notions; but his doodles are limited.)

    For some near-future not-quite-Singularity predictions, here's my synopsis of his "fuzzy edge of the internet" (networked embedded controllers and "localizers") GoH speech from Philcon 2000.

    Everyone mentions True Names (networks, cyberspace), _Marooned in Realtime_ (the Singularity), and _A Fire Upon the Deep_ (transhuman intelligences) — but his fiction isn't unalloyed boosterism. In AFUtD's sequel, _A Deepness in the Sky_, it's 8000 years from now and human colony worlds routinely collapse, e.g. when they over-optimize their networked just-in-time industries. (No inventory to buffer pipeline delays.) People refer to "the age of failed dreams" — unachieved hopes for human- and superhuman AIs, natural language processing, nanotech, FTL. (Of course, in Vinge's "Zones of Thought" universe, that's because *those* things are easier to achieve in the Beyond and Transcend.)

    One authoritarian culture achieves human-level computing support (a layer atop the dumb machines) by enslaving *humans* with "Focus", a tunable brain infection that turns you into a dedicated, directable idiot savant. Another civ develops near-microscopic MEMS "localizers" and soon falls into authoritarian ubiquitous surveillance.

    His personal site is (not .com or .org, IIRC), but (a) it's just an amusing one-page ad for Vrinimi Networking in the High Beyond, and (b) it's not currently responding. (None of the three are.) I've compiled a near-complete Vinge fiction bibliography, cross-organized by collection.

  3. LosAngeles Says:

    Assuming either the Left Wing or the Right Wing gained control of the country, it would probably fly around in circles.

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