Honors Colloquium - University of Rhode Island
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Fall 2011 Honors Colloquium

Vernor Vinge (September 27)
What Sci-fi Writers Know about the Future


Vernor Vinge is a Professor Emeritus in the San Diego State University Department of Computer Science. Many may recognize him as an award-winning science fiction author and for his Hugo Award-winning novels: A Fire Upon the Deep (1992), A Deepness in the Sky (1999) and, his more recent novel, Rainbows End (2006) as well as the essay "The Coming Technological Singularity."

According to Vinge, in the next couple of decades "we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will have ended." Much of Vinge's science fiction deals with the coming changes in technology and the implications they may have on the human race. Reading his work will allow us to explore topics ranging from the coming singularity to the ethical issues of future technologies.

At this year's Colloquium, Vinge will be speaking about his science fiction writing and how what we call fiction today may be our reality tomorrow.



Peter Schwartz, in the second lecture in this series, discusses the use of scenarios in planning ones future. He emphasizes that envisioning a future scenario "will be much easier if you are willing to encourage your own imagination, novelty, and even sense of the absurd - as well as your sense of realism". Isn't this precisely what a science fiction author does when writing a story? But how do they do this? Are any of their scenarios plausible? Some of these authors say that there is a strategy to writing about a likely future. It's not about flying space cars and giant green blobs taking over the planet. The strategy according to author, Larry Niven, is to "look for goals humankind will never give up" - drivers in the context of Schwartz's scenarios. We have always wanted instant travel, instant education and longevity. Authors must make sure they cover the whole theory. You can't invent the automobile and not take into account traffic jams and rising gas prices. Niven says you have to see the technology all the way through and take into account that no one invents anything unless there is at the very least, an illusion of a profit. In fact, one sees many of the steps that Schwartz outlines for putting together a scenario in the steps taken by the science fiction author.

In this presentation, world renowned science fiction writer, Vernor Vinge, will discuss how he arrives at his often startling views of the future.


URI Presentation - Video
The video for Vernor Vinge's URI presentation on 9/27/11

Superhuman Intelligence Video
Vernor Vinge speaking on superhuman intelligence

Article on the technological singularity
An article by Vernor Vinge on the technological singularity

Written Works
Vernor Vinge's list of written works