Charles Stross, 2005
the twenty-second book in the visitor recommendation series;
suggested by Serge Khorun
This book came out in 2005, the same year that Mike D'Angelo posted an article about the technological singularity that I've referred to a few times since then. Here's an edit of the key passage:
Picture the world of, oh, 150 years ago. A world before the airplane, before the telephone, before the automobile, before television, before cinema, before the computer, before the Internet — pretty much before almost everything that we currently use and do and depend upon. […]
Got it? Okay, now dump the Oliver Twist picture, shove the 2005 picture over to the left, and make the right side of the diptych your own conception of a future that's as alien and inconceivable to us as the contemporary world would have been to Dickens. What that will look like will vary from person to person, but the thing is that it shouldn't resemble, say, Blade Runner, i.e. basically today's world with a few superficial modifications (taller buildings, funkier flying machines, androids). You need to imagine something radically different. […]
Got that? Of course you don't. It's inconceivable. That's the whole point. You can probably come up with a few sci-fi chestnuts, like teleportation or Tom Cruise shunting image-data around with little wrist-flicks, but really we're talking about a world that's beyond our comprehension. […]
Okay, so now you've got a diptych with today on the left panel and some murky blur on the right panel. Here's what I just found out. The right panel? It's not 150 years away. It's maybe 30 years away. Maybe less. If you have a small child, the world that child lives in as an adult will be as foreign to you as the world of today was to Dickens. Probably much more foreign. And you'll still be around to see it.
This seems like a perfectly fine book, but I bailed on it a little less than halfway through. Why? Because, as the title suggests, it is about a point when technological change has become so rapid that children are fundamentally different types of organisms from their parents — their biological brains only a small part of the cybernetic amalgam that constitutes their full consciousness, uploading instances of themselves around the galaxy — and their grandchildren are more different still. And to me it was indeed all a murky blur. I mean, here's a list of some of the key concepts in this book, according to Wikipedia: Stomatogastric ganglia. Quantum state vectors. The nanoassembly conformational problem. Langford fractals. Penrose tiling. None of this means anything to me. And even beginning to wrap my head around it looked like it would require way more work than I was willing to put in.