On the first day of SXSW Interactive I heard a speech by Ray Kurzweil from Mind Grub. Mr. Kurzweil proposed that in the year 2049 the world’s computer network will become so stinking smart it’ll turn into a “Singularity.” Though the word’s borrowed from astronomy, here it refers to the day when the raw power of the planet’s network surpasses human intelligence, takes over its own development, builds itself faster, feels emotion, makes ethical decisions, and becomes self-aware.
If that sounds like he rolled too many fat ones before going into see Judgement Day, consider that in a recent cover story, even the conservative Time magazine went on record to say:
“The difficult thing to keep sight of when you’re talking about the Singularity is that even though it sounds like science fiction, it isn’t, no more than a weather forecast is science fiction. It’s not a fringe idea; it’s a serious hypothesis about the future of life on Earth.”Damn … I love how often it’s the comic-book genre of science fiction that’s the first to part the curtains and show us the “future life on Earth.” And damn if these skinny geeks – these Ray Bradbury’s, these William Gibson’s – damn if they aren’t nailin’ it every time.
Remember Tom Cruise’s cool computer in Minority Report in 2002? That was five full years before Microsoft unveiled its “Surface” technology. And close to a decade before their Kinect’s 3D sensor.
Or check this one out. Back in 1951, in geeky lookin’ rags like the Galaxy you see above, nerds like Ray Bradbury were imagining Netflix, Skype, and augmented reality all rolled into one:
“The nursery was silent. It was empty as a jungle glade at hot high noon. The walls were blank and two-dimensional. Now, as George and Lydia Hadley stood in the center of the room, the walls began to purr and recede into crystalline distance, it seemed, and presently an African veldt appeared, in three dimensions, on all sides, in color reproduced to the final pebble and bit of straw. The ceiling above them became a deep sky with a hot yellow sun.” (from “The Veldt”)
And tonight the sci-fi nerds continue to imagine new things.
In fact, they’re linin’ up just down the road to see Jake Gyllenhaal pull in to promote the movie, Source Code, which premiers at the Paramount Theatre. And up here, high in Austin’s Hilton Hotel just outside Salon H, I find myself surrounded by the grandgeeks and great-grandgeeks of H.G.Wells and Bradbury.
They’re all here tonight, either behind the podiums or out in the audience diddling with their iPhones, and they’re all still imagining things into reality for us. Call ’em nerds. That’s okay, they’re used to it. They know the bumper sticker joke, the one about how the geeks shall inherit the earth. Thing is though? I’m pretty sure it’s true.