August 30, 2009
I’ve been getting a lot of singularity-related email lately, and it’s reminded me of two quotes from Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End, describing the state of the world in 2025. First the upside: An Army of Davids success in fighting disease:
The first bit of dumb luck came disguised as a public embarrassment for the European Center for Defense Against Disease. On July 23, schoolchildren in Algiers claimed that a respiratory epidemic was spreading across the Mediterranean. The claim was based on a clever analysis of antibody data from the mass-transit systems of Algiers and Naples.
CDD had no immediate comment, but in less than three hours, public-health hobbyists reported similar results in other cities, complete with contagion maps. The epidemic was at least one week old, probably originating in Central Africa, beyond the scope of hobbyist surveillance.
But there’s a downside:
Every year, the civilized world grew and the reach of lawlessness and poverty shrank. Many people thought that the world was becoming a safer place . . . Nowadays Grand Terror technology was so cheap that cults and criminal gangs could acquire it. . . . In all innocence, the marvelous creativity of humankind continued to generate unintended consequences. There were a dozen research trends that could ultimately put world-killer weapons in the hands of anyone having a bad hair day.
That’s looking like our future, all right.