The title of this post, “The Singularity is Coming,” is actually something of a lie. After reading some of the stories in the anthology Digital Rapture, I seriously found myself questioning whether or not the singularity was already here.
What is the singularity? According to the wikitionary, this is “a predicted future event in human history caused by the ever-increasing ability of new technology to speed up the rate at which new technology is developed.” Editors James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel do an excellent job of discussing what is a very difficult (and all-embracing, at times) concept in their introduction. They travel between the stories of H.G. Wells to medieval ascetics to intellectuals of today, all while asking questions of the reader and inviting them to form their own judgments. Rather than feeling extraneous as many editorial narratives do, this story is fascinating and the threads of the discussion carry on even in introductions of the pieces presented here.
A standout piece in Digital Rapture was “Hive Mind Man” by Rudy Rucker and Eileen Gunn. In an age where human beings are increasingly encouraged to share more and more of their personal lives and thoughts in the global blogosphere, this story does not feel as far-future as it should. The protagonist struggles with a boyfriend who is asked to effectively give his life to the pursuit of constant data-mining and promotion. I found this a great cautionary tale–at what point does spewing out our thoughts and ideas into the ether turn us away from being individuals and instead, becoming part of a national, or worldwide, consciousness?
Another piece particularly compelling to me was “Crystal Nights” by Greg Egan. In “Nights,” Egan examines the question of building a race from scratch. The process of evolution as seen through the eyes of one who wants to control it is fascinating to observe, moreso when things begin to go awry. I hadn’t thought of this particular theme as being an aspect of singularity and yet it is, beautifully done here.
There are many other stories by those that I’d regard as the greats in this field–Asimov, Stapledon, Sterling, etc–and I would recommend taking the time to sit down and read this particular anthology not in one sitting, but in several. The questions that it raises are relevant and topical. I think that careful consideration of Digital Rapture will reveal more about ourselves and our time than the casual reader suspects.