Vernor Vinge

Keynote Presentation

Accelerating Change 2005
39 minutes, 18mb, recorded 2005-09-17
Topics: The Future
Vernor Vinge
In this keynote address from Accelerating Change 2005, Vernor Vinge discusses the potential for a "technological singularity" - the event at which the creation of artificial superhuman intelligence changes the world so dramatically that it is impossible to imagine the world after that point. He explains that the singularity is not a given, nor is it necessarily a positive event. Many factors could arise that prevent the singularity from occurring and there is a potential for it to be a catastrophic event rather than a positive revolution.

Vinge suspects that if the Singularity arises after several years of progress rather than as an overnight event, it is more likely to be a positive step in human evolution. He calls this the "soft-takeoff," and offers some ideas that may encourage a longer approach to the point of change. The pace of progress may be exponentially increasing, but that does not preclude a gradual move toward the moment of transition.

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In 1982, at a panel for AAAI-82, Vernor Vinge proposed that in the near future technology would accelerate the evolution of intelligence itself, leading to a kind of "singularity" beyond which merely human extrapolation is essentially impossible. In the 1980s and 1990s, he elaborated on this theme, both in his science fiction and nonfiction. Vinge holds a PhD (Math) from the University of California, San Diego. From 1972 to 2000 he taught in the Department of Math and Computer Sciences at San Diego State University.

Vinge is the author of a number of science-fiction stories, including "True Names", A Fire Upon the Deep, and A Deepness in the Sky. The last two items each won the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel of the year. He has also won best novella Hugos for "Fast Times at Fairmont High" and "The Cookie Monster". His story, "Synthetic Serendipity", appeared last year in IEEE Spectrum.


This program is one of a series from IT Conversations coverage of the Accelerating Change 2005 conference held September 16-18, 2005 at Stanford University.

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