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Singularity Pre-Readings
Jamais Cascio, 11 Jun 04

WC Ally #1 Bruce Sterling, as noted earlier, is speaking tonight in San Francisco on The Singularity: Your Life As A Black Hole. His talk is part of the Long Now Foundation's seminar series. We can't say often enough how much we enjoy hearing Bruce give a talk -- he really is one of the finest, most engaging, public speakers around.

His talk will look at the notion of the "Singularity" -- a point in the (potentially very near) future where technological and social change happen so quickly and so profoundly that it's impossible to understand, let alone predict, what life would be like. Once we hit the Singularity, all bets are off. In case the subject matter is unfamiliar to you -- or you just want to get the more obscure references he throws in -- here are some useful articles and essays to have under your belt before hearing tonight's talk. All are from the final, unreleased issue of Whole Earth magazine, focusing on the Singularity:

  • Vernor Vinge is generally credited with first identifying the point of massive change as the "Singularity" in this article: The Technological Singularity (PDF)
  • Alex Steffen edited the Singularity issue of Whole Earth magazine. His introductory essay (2 parts, PDF) gives a good overview of the current debate about the possibility.
  • Charlie Stross wrote an essay for the magazine discussing some of the implications of singularity-level technologies on surveillance and social control, The Panopticon Singularity.
  • Bruce Sterling, in that issue of Whole Earth, describes ways in which it might be averted (2 parts, PDF).
  • And my article for that issue, Open the Future argues that the best way to ensure that a Singularity happens in a way that benefits all of us is to make certain that its underlying technologies are open and distributed.

    In addition: Long Now has now made audio recordings of previous Seminars available for free download, in MP3 and Ogg Vorbis formats (FLAC and Speex available on some). If you can't make Bruce's talk for some reason (like not being in San Francisco), we'll let you know when the recording is available.

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