Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Down with the The Singularity

The tyrannosaur stumbled down the beach, his scaled feet sinking in the fine dayglo pink sand. This was heavier going than he had expected. Plus, his back was itching. He needed a cliff-face or stand of coconut trees for a good scratch. No sooner had he thought it than a large bowed palm tree appeared in front of him in a cloud of nanodes.

Tony sighed with relief as he scratched. These little t-rex arms were definitely not built for administering a good scratching, that was for sure. Just then, the force-field surrounding the beach shimmered, stretching and bending the starlight beyond.

A smile hung in the air, then Kurzweil the cat wafted in on his intellicarpet...

You might recognise the name Kurzweil. He's the guy who predicted a technological singularity in around 30 years, when the exponential increase in the power of computing will result in machines with the transcendant intelligence to herald a new era for man and machine. No problem there.

There are those who feel that there will be a biological singularity too. This one is even further in the future, and postulizes 'post-humans' with the power to transcend the limitations of flesh. These post humans might no longer require bodies, or may have the power to download into fantastic, fabricated bodies - to be a dinosaur, survive a vacuum or finally become immortal, trying out different bodies with each incarnation. I suppose, given time, anything is possible.

My problem with the whole singularity thing isn't with the theory. It is all exciting stuff! My problem is with the fiction that goes with it. Of course, writers should be free to let their imaginations go as nuts as they want, and little allows that better than the singularity theory. But when characters can do whatever takes their fancy - and writers can indulge themselves unreservedly, we run into difficulties. The whole thing becomes too metaphysical. It becomes a cartoon. Where is the dramatic tension when characters have complete control of their environment? How can we relate to these characters or the settings? I do admit that some writers can pull it off. Check out Greg Egan's Diaspora, for example. However, having just thrown WJ Williams Implied Spaces in the bin on top of A Fire on the Deep and Dan Simmon's Ilium, I'd have to say Egan is an exception to the rule.

If you want to read more of Tony the T-Rex's story, maybe you should check those authors out. You'll be on your own though. I'll be in the corner reading some John Scalzi or Cory Doctorow.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Achievement 10 G - Liver Abuser

A combination of things made me want to get as drunk as possible last Saturday: my upcoming redundancy and general money worries, the fact that I'd just been to the funeral of someone 3 or 4 years younger than me, the fact that my house was full of friends and laughter, and the fact that I'd just finished my first short story in about 4 years.

So I decided to drink a full 75 cl bottle of Russian Standard vodka.

The results were as follows (in roughly chronological order):
Cautioned by the police for using the local playground,
Sudden bouts of bellowing,
Fits of rolling on the ground,
Fits of rolling on the gound with no trousers on,
Loss of coordination leading to suprise collapsing,
Red carded to bed by Hilbotron.
The next morning:
Vomiting orange acid,
Prayers to thank Baby Jesus that I stayed out of hospital,
Watching 3 hours of Rick Stein's Seafood Odyssey.

I would have said yesterday, in the throes of my hangover, that drinking so much was incredibly stupid and irresponsible and that I would never do it again. I certainly would not recommend it.

However, now that the remorse has passed, I'm not so sure. Maybe I would do it again.

One thing I can say for sure: Do not try this at home kids!