martes, 24 de diciembre de 2013

Novedad: Singularities - Technoculture, Transhumanism, and Science Fiction in the 21st Century

La semana pasada se puso a la venta un libro de ensayo con un título de lo más interesante: Singularities - Technoculture, Transhumanism, and Science Fiction in the 21st Century, de Joshua Raulerson. El texto no es precisamente barato, pero igual Papá Noel todavía está la escucha (y, si no, siempre se puede echar un vistazo a la tesis doctoral de Raulerson que parece formar el núcleo de este volumen).

La sinopsis del libro es la siguiente:
In a time of protracted economic crisis, failing political systems, and impending environmental collapse, one strand in our collective cultural myth of Progress – the technological – remains vibrantly intact, surging into the future at ramming speed. Amid the seemingly exponential proliferation of machine intelligence and network connectivity, and the increasingly portentous implications of emerging nanotechnology, futurists and fabulists look to an imminent historical threshold whereupon the nature of human existence will be radically and irrevocably transformed. The Singularity, it is supposed, can be no more than a few years off; indeed, some believe it has already begun. 
Technological Singularity – a trope conceived in science fiction and subsequently adopted throughout technocultural discourse and beyond – is the primary site of interpenetration between technoscientific and science-fictional figurations of the future, a territory where longstanding binary oppositions between science and fiction, and between present and future, are rapidly dissolving. In this groundbreaking volume, the first to mount a sustained and wide-ranging critical treatment of Singularity as a subject for theory and cultural studies, Raulerson draws SF texts into a complex dialogue with contemporary digital culture, transhumanist movements, political and economic theory, consumer gadgetry, gaming, and related vectors of high-tech postmodernity. In theorizing Singularity as a metaphorical construct lending shape to a range of millennial anxieties and aspirations, Singularities also makes the case for a recent and little-understood subgeneric formation – postcyberpunk SF – as a cohesive body of work, engaged in a shared literary project that is simultaneously shaping, and shaped by, purportedly nonfictional technoscientific discourses.

2 comentarios:

  1. "Technological Singularity – a trope conceived in science fiction and subsequently adopted throughout technocultural discourse and beyond "

    Y en la introducción de la tesis dice: "The “Singularity”– a term coined in 1986 by the mathematician and science fiction writer Vernor Vinge, and subsequently adopted throughout technocultural discourse"

    Lo cierto es que John von Neumann no era un autor de ciencia-ficción ni se llamaba Vernor Vinge, y llevaba treinta años muerto en 1986. Lo más fascinante es que hay gente a la que se la refanfinflan completamente los hechos más básicos de lo que están estudiando, y luego te venden su libro por solo 70 libras :)

    1. Muchas gracias para su comentario. Yo soy el autor de Singularities. Lo siento que mi comando del espanol no es muy fuerte, y me parece que su capacidad para leer en ingles es mejor. Por lo tanto, con permiso, seguiria en ingles:

      I can’t speak to the price of the volume, over which I have no control, but as for the “hechos basicos,” your attribution of the term "Singularity" to von Neumann is incorrect. Unless I miss my guess, the misconception derives from Ray Kurzweil's foreword to the recent republication of JVN's The Computer and the Brain, in which Kurzweil includes a quotation, purportedly by von Neumann, to the effect that human affairs appear to be "approaching some essential singularity […]”

      While Kurzweil accurately cites an essay by Stanislaw Ulam as the source of this language, he presents it as a direct quotation, by Ulam, of von Neumann’s words. In the original essay (available here), Ulam is clearly paraphrasing – in his own words – a more general and tangential line of thought that emerged in Ulam’s conversations with his friend and colleague. The immediate context, moreover, makes it clear that the theme of these discussions was what von Neumann saw as the diminishing status of abstract scientific inquiry in 20th century society – not, as Kurzweil would have it, the inexorable rise of machine intelligence.

      Kurzweil has his own rhetorical reasons for wanting to position the pioneering computer scientist von Neumann as an early prophet of the Singularity cult he champions, though in doing so he misrepresents both the provenance and the import of the textual evidence he cites. Likewise, I have my own reasons for according that role to Vinge, whose usage I would continue to uphold as the seminal deployment of the term “technological Singularity” as it is commonly understood.

      I’ll grant that von Neumann, at least in one possible interpretation of Ulam’s account, might have been on to something similar; however, it’s never been my contention that no one ever used the word “singularity” before 1986 – nor even prior to its adoption as a theoretical commonplace in mathematics, which would have been the obvious point of reference for Ulam and von Neumann. On the contrary, I argue that one important reason for the vitality of Singularity discourse is its ability to organize and give voice to a range of diffuse and longstanding cultural attitudes about the relationship between technology and society that preexist its formal articulation by contemporary figures such as Vinge and Kurzweil.