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Post-Singular

Last post 11-25-2007, 9:41 AM by tamgoddess. 2 replies.
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  •  11-03-2006, 7:34 AM 13557

    Indifferent [:|] Post-Singular

    Attachment: attackmandel.jpg
    I just read a great little short story by Rudy Rucker, a mathematician and science fiction author who writes really gonzo, anarchistic, mind-blowing SF.  This one deals with the fascinating topic of the (hypothetical) technological singularity which some believe is looming in our near future.

    I'm going to quote a few excerpts here; note that this story, which appears in Asimov's SF magazine (Sept. 2006), along with "Chu and the Nants" (June 2006) form back-story to Rucker's next novel Postsingular.

    The story gets off to a roaring start:

    The Singularity happened when, encouraged by his business backers, President Joe Doakes sent an eggcase of nants to Mars.  Nants were self-reproducing nanomachines: solar-powered, networked, capable of gnatlike flight, and single-mindedly focused on transforming all available material into more nants.  In a couple of years, the nants had eaten Mars, turning the red planet into a Dyson sphere of a duodecillion nanomachines, a three-millimeter-thick shell half a billion kilometers across, with Earth and the Sun trapped inside.

    The stars were hidden by giant ads; in daytime the ads were a silvery background to the sky.  Doakes' backers were well-pleased.  And behind the scenes the nant swarm was solving a number of intractable problems in computer science, mathematical physics, and process design; these results were privily beamed to the nants' parent corporation, Nantel.  But before Nantel could profit from the discoveries, the nants set to work chewing up Earth.

    At the last possible moment, a disaffected Nantel engineer named Ond Lutter managed to throw the nants into reverse gear.  The nants restored the sections of Earth they'd already eaten, reassembled Mars, and returned to their original eggcase - which was blessedly vaporized by a well-aimed Martian nuclear blast, courtesy of the Chinese Space Agency. 

    Public fury over Earth's near-demolition was such that President Doakes and his Vice President were impeached, convicted of treason, and executed by lethal injection.  But Nantel fared better.  Although three high-ranking execs were put to sleep like the President, the company itself entered bankruptcy to duck the lawsuits - and re-emerged as ExaExa, with the corporate motto "Putting People First - Building Gaia's Mind."

    For a while there it seemed as if humanity had nipped the Singularity in the bud.  But then came the orphids.


    The orphids turn out to be self-reproducing, networked AI nano-robots, which rapidly cover the entire earth and instantly change the rules of the game.  The ubergeek Ond Lutter, who released the orphids, describes them thus:

    What with the petabyte and petaflop capacity of each orphid, the full sextillion-strong orphidnet will boast an ubbabyte of memory being processed at an ubbaflop rate - ubba meaning 10 to the thirty-sixth power...The orphidnet's total power will thus be the square of an individual human's exabyte exaflop level...The orphidnet has the computational clout you'd get from replacing each person by the entire population of Earth, and having all those people thinking together.


    I love the scene where Ond releases them for the first time - in front of friends, to show off.  They immediately start spreading wildly, mapping everything including nearby humans and starting to talk to them.  Here's how one character reacts.

    "Hey, Jil, I heard what the orphids said to you.  Maybe they're gonna be okay."

    "Maybe," said Jil, letting out a deep, shaky sigh.  She poured herself a cup of hot tea.  "Look at my cup," she observed.  "It's crawling with them.  An orphid every millimeter.  They're like some - some endlessly ramifying ideal language that wants to define a word for every single part of every worldly thing.  A thicket of metalanguage setting the namers at an ever-greater remove from the named."  Jil's hand twitched; some of her tea spilled onto the deck.  "Now they're mapping the puddle splash, bringing it under control, normalizing it into their bullshit consensus reality.  Our world's being nibbled to death by nanoducks, Craigor.  We're nanofucked."


    We're Nanofucked - I'd love to see that as a headline in the event of an apocalyptic nanoaccident.

    One more bit to show that things continue to get weirder...

    "I'm loving the orphidnet," said Craigor.  "I have this sense of resonance and enrichment."

    "You're not seeing the flaming angels?" asked Ond.  "From a parallel world?"

    An odd, unsettling question, that.


    For more Rudy Rucker fun, check out his website.  I'll add his painting "Attack of the Mandlebrot Set" (more paintings on his website) at the end of this post.

    spirals,
    arthur


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  •  11-25-2007, 7:23 AM 32469 in reply to 13557

    Re: Post-Singular

    For my post to be singular.....
    "Ω =∞x∞^∞" - Wayne Teasdale
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  •  11-25-2007, 9:41 AM 32476 in reply to 32469

    Re: Post-Singular

    mcenter:
    For my post to be singular.....


    Arthur/adastra says:
    ...you'd pretty much have to stop there, lol.  Stick out tongue [:P]  Thanks for digging up that year-old thread, Ryan.  Smile [:)]

    What a difference a year makes!  As I announced in a singular post in Corey's thread A Fair(y) Use Tale, Postsingular is now a novel, available online under a Creative Commons license.  Here's something I posted in an IIZaadz thread a while ago that tells more about the novel:

    I've just started reading the latest novel by Rudy Rucker, one of my favorite authors of all time.  Postsingular presents a particularly gonzo look at the technological singularity scenario.   As I mentioned elsewhere recently it is licenced under Creative Commons and is available for free download!  I love this license:

    ~~~

    Electronic License

    The electronic version of the text is distributed under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative License.

    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0 shows a full description of the license, and a summary of the license appears within each of the downloadable files. Roughly speaking, you have the right to copy the files in a non-commercial fashion, attributing them to Rudy Rucker, but you don't have the right to remix, alter, transform, build upon the files or convert them into other media unless you've gotten permission from me. This said, it's generally okay to port one of the files to a different text format or reader platform as long as you don't add or remove anything.


    ~~~

    The author offers numerous different formats for download on this page, which also has the following information on the book:

    Book Summary

    Postsingular and its sequels represent Rucker's return to the cyberpunk style of his classic Ware tetralogy. But this is 21st Century cyberpunk; Rucker calls it psipunk.

    Postsingular takes on the question of what will happen after the Singularity—what will happen after computers become as smart as humans and nanotechnology takes on the power of magic?

    A mad scientist decides it might be a good idea to create a giant virtual reality simulation that is running a copy of Earth and of most of the people in it. Fine, but in order to create this simulation, the mad scientist plans to grind our planet into a zillion supercomputing nanomachines called nants.

    Ultrageek Ond Lutter and his autistic son Chu find a way to block the nants—but then Ond can’t resist infesting Earth with a congenial breed of quantum-computing nanomachines called orphids.

    The orphids coat the planet, one or two per square millimeter, and now everyone is on-line all the time, and everything is visible in the orphidnet. Artificial life forms emerge in the orphidnet, these are helpful agents called beezies, and they pyramid together into a superhuman planetary mind called the Big Pig. People can mentally access the Big Pig and feel like geniuses—with the catch that when they come down they can’t really remember what they saw. Those addicted to this new kind of high are called pigheads.

    The lovers Jayjay and Thuy begin as pigheads, but Thuy manages to kick the habit to work on a vast orphidnet-based narrative called a metanovel. Jayjay continues his sessions with the Big Pig in hopes of learning more about science—and this puts a damper on their love affair. But the mad scientist is still machinating to bring back the nants and destroy Earth, and Thuy and Jayjay reunite to save the world.

    It helps that Jayjay has figured out how to do teleportation via the orphidnet. And that Thuy has made friends with a giant, ethereal man from a parallel world called the Hibrane. Jayjay helps Thuy teleport to the Hibrane for help. The Hibraners do have a fix for Earth’s problems, but it’s going to be a bigger change than anyone ever imagined. Earth is on the verge of a postdigital age, more postsingular than anyone ever imagined.

    Nature will come alive.

    Blurbs

    “Rudy Rucker should be declared a National Treasure of American Science Fiction.  Someone simultaneously channeling Kurt Gödel and Lenny Bruce might start to approximate full-on Ruckerian warp-space, but without the sweet, human, splendidly goofy Rudy-ness at the core of the singularity.”
              — William Gibson, author of Pattern Recognition

    “Rudy Rucker is the most consistently brilliant imagination working in SF today”
              — Charles Stross, author of Accelerando

    “Rudy Rucker never fails to leave me breathless… Reading one of his stories is like a reset button on reality: when it's over, the whole universe looks slightly different…and much stranger.”
              –Spider Robinson, author of Night of Power

    (Blurbs for Rudy Rucker's Other Books)

    Reviews

    Alt-cultural folk strive to save Earth from digitized doom in this novel from the prince of gonzo SF. A computer mogul's threat to replace messy reality with clean virtuality and by a memory-hungry artificial intelligence called the Big Pig propels nanotechnologist Ond Lutter, his autistic son, Chu, and their allies on an interdimensional quest for a golden harp, the Lost Chord, strung with hypertubes that can unroll the eighth dimension and unleash limitless computing power. … Rucker favors the flower power of San Francisco over the number crunching of Silicon Valley. His novel vibrates with the warm rhythms of dream and imagination, not the cold logic of programming … Playing with the math of quantum computing, encryption and virtual reality, Rucker places his faith in people who find true reality “gnarly” enough to love.
              — Publisher's Weekly (C) Reed Business Information.

    Always willing and able to embrace sf's trendiest themes, Rucker here takes on the volatile field of nanotechnology and the presumed inevitable “singularity” of human and computer unification. In a series of interrelated vignettes, he describes the calamity that befalls nanotech inventor Ond Lutter and his would-be benefactors when Ond unleashes a variety of self-replicating nanobots. In one episode, trillions of microscopic bots, dubbed nants, chew up Mars to create a colossal Dyson Sphere orbiting the sun. When the nants move on to Earth to transform every living being into a virtual-reality doppelganger, Ond saves the day with a nant-busting virus. The real fun begins, however, when Ond “improves” on the nants with apparently benign nanobots, called orphids, that blanket every surface and provide plugged-in users three-dimensional access to every conceivable scrap of knowledge and experience. … His devoted fans and dazzled newcomers to him will revel in his willingness to push technological extrapolation to its soaring limits.
              — Carl Hays, Booklist

    When it comes to unique voices in science fiction, few can claim to have quite as distinctive a style as Rudy Rucker. Postsingular is packed full of the larger-than-life weirdness that has become his trademark; classic genre tropes and clichés rub shoulders with mathematical theorems and wild technological speculation, delivered in prose that captures the the languid vibe and hippie undercurrents of California. … Rucker's quick-draw style acts as a sleight-of-hand that allows him to slip some of sf's biggest tropes and ideas beneath the reader's radar, as well as touching some very human character aspects that are often skipped over (or, worse still, rendered tiresome) by the pens of others. Postsingular has all the bells and whistles that only a computing professor could provide, but never at the expense of the story.
            —Paul Raven, Interzone

    Rudy Rucker's new novel Postsingular is pure Rucker: a dope-addled exploration of the way-out fringes of string theory and the quantum universe that distorts the possible into the most improbable contortions.
            —Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing

    This book is densely written…yet also captivatingly plotted for sheer narrative verve and laced with plenty of humor and suspense. Walking a tightrope between information overload and thriller action, the book captures the heady zip, zest and buzz of the post-singular milieu, a world where miracles are commonplace but structured logically to provide real challenges, risks and triumphs.
            —Paul DiFilippo, SciFi.com

    Rucker writes with a hyperactive level of inventiveness that seems to owe bits in equal measure to Lewis Carroll, William Burroughs, and Ray Kurzweil. Rucker can be enormous fun to read, and there are some stunningly bold ideas here.
            —Gary K. Wolfe, Locus

    ~~~

    postspiral out,
    arthur




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