Rainbows End

An IEEE Spectrum Radio Special

IEEE Spectrum Radio
13 minutes, 6.3mb, recorded 2008-08-01
Vernor Vinge

Hugo award-winning science fiction author Vernor Vinge first coined the term Technological Singularity in the 1980s and later described it in detail his 1993 essay "The Coming Technological Singularity". He begins this interview by reading an excerpt from his latest novel Rainbow's End. The scene he describes illustrates one way that the Singularity could manifest itself.

Vinge discusses the special challenges of writing about the near future and the danger of being "scooped" by reality before the book is published. He explains which came first: the concept of the Singularity or its use as a plot device in science fiction, and he discusses the notion of artificial intelligence in the role of poet and musician.

The increasingly popular idea that the coming Technological Singularity is more than just science fiction has both its proponents and its skeptics, explains Vinge. But if it does become a reality, what happens next? "If we're lucky," says Vinge, "they'll treat us like pets."

Vernor Steffen Vinge (born February 10, 1944) is a mathematician, computer scientist and science fiction author who is best known for his Hugo award-winning novel A Fire Upon the Deep, and for his 1993 essay "The Coming Technological Singularity", in which he argues that exponential growth in technology will reach a point beyond which we cannot even speculate about the consequences.

Vinge came to prominence in 1981 with his novella "True Names", one of the earliest stories to present a fully fleshed-out concept of cyberspace, which would later be central to stories by William Gibson, Neal Stephenson and others.

His next two novels, The Peace War (1984) and Marooned in Realtime (1986), concern the impact of a technology that can create impenetrable force fields called "Bobbles". He was nominated for the Hugo Award for both books, but in each case lost to novels by William Gibson and Orson Scott Card.

Vinge finally won the Hugo Award with his 1992 novel, A Fire Upon the Deep. In it, Vinge envisions a galaxy that is divided up into "zones of thought", in which the further one moves from the center of the galaxy, the higher the level of technology one can achieve. A Deepness in the Sky (1999) was a prequel to Fire, following competing groups of humans as they struggle over who has the rights to exploit a technologically emerging alien culture. This novel also won a Hugo Award in 2000.

Vinge has also won Hugos for his novellas, "Fast Times at Fairmont High" in 2002, and "The Cookie Monster" in 2004.

Vinge retired in 2002 from teaching at San Diego State University in order to write full-time.



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