victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Feb 20 04:14:51 UTC 2010

My apologies to Vinge for maligning his mathematical background.
Perhaps the misinterpretation of the exponential law is willful rather
than ignorant. My concern is that this theoretical belief has taken on
a rather fanatical shape--the kind that is all too often associated
with SF fans. I simply want to hedge against another Dianetics (whose
author certainly knew better).

But my other point I would consider more important--sometimes noise is
just noise. Just as most dictionaries don't list all the jargon terms
in every discipline, it may be perfectly reasonable to exclude certain
coinages and extensions. From what I've seen of the idea of
"technological singularity", it simply takes the more traditional
meaning and combines it with inventive, but, ultimately, unsupported
theory. For all the coinages of both words and whole concepts by
generations of science fiction authors (e.g., the very word "robot"),
we tend to forget thousands of other words and concepts that did not
make it, despite the fact that they might have seem just as prescient
at the time. The distance between a visionary and a quack sometimes is
just a few lucky coincidences.

Personally, I cannot respond to the last question you asked below. I
have no foothold in the fields (outside of science and technology,
that is) that might have use of Vinge's concept of singularity. And my
skepticism should not stop anyone else from using the concept if they
see promise in it.

I better stop before Ron suggests that I've been posting too much (I
have, I am sure).


On Fri, Feb 19, 2010 at 9:07 PM, Robin Hamilton
<robin.hamilton2 at> wrote:
> I should have made it clear that I was playing quick-and-dirty on this one,
> Victor.  I simply hit Wiki for a fast check that nothing (relevant to my
> immediate purposes) had been done with the term since Vinge pried it loose
> from its (various) scientific contexts and began to double it up, running
> with it in his SF (mostly _A Fire Upon the Deep_) but also apparently as a
> serious scientific theory.  The later side didn't interest me in the least,
> and the end result was that I cheerfully dismissed, whether fairly or not,
> the entire relevant Wiki entry as "Vinge plus noise [in the sense of zero
> information content]."  I should perhaps have reworded this as, "Vinge, plus
> information about the use and development of the term "singularity" which,
> whether true or not, wasn't for me at all pertinent."
> As I was interested in current extensions of the (partly metaphorical) use
> of "singularity" stemming from Vinge, I simply wanted to get that out of the
> way in order to raise the question.
> Why I was concerned about this at the moment seemed so off-topic that I
> didn't bother to mention it.  There is some (heated, to say the least)
> discussion of the current situation of poetry vis a vis publication outlets,
> status, the MFA, online vs. print, the power and function of blogs, etc.,
> etc. ad nauseam on several poetry lists at the moment, and I was interested
> in whether there was any mileage in extending the Vinge concept of
> "singularity" to the situation of poetry with respect to the Web, networking
> groups, and various other elements of the peculiarly spiced devil's stew
> that some aspects of poetry writing seem to be cooking at the moment.
> I should perhaps simply have asked, "Does anyone know if there are any
> extended uses of the Vinge version of "singularity" in play at the moment?"
> but I felt I had to supply some context.  Obviously I either supplied too
> much or not enough.
> So two possible wordings of the same thing:
>        'What is the utility of the concept of "singularity" as a
> hermeneutic metaphor applied to the current dispersed state of US and UK
> poetry?'
> or ...
>        'How do you sell a poetry pamphlet today?'
>> I suspect that the root of all this is Vinge's lack of understanding
>> of "exponential" in Moore's law. Calling it "noise" is an
>> overstatement.
> Given than Vinge's day job was, and may still be, to profess mathematics at
> rather a high level (like Rudy Ruckner, he's one of the pukka mathematicians
> currently involved with writing SF at the moment), I beg leave to doubt that
> this is the entire answer.
>> I'll just leave it at that.
>> VS-)
> Me too.  <g>
> Anyway, thanks for the useful input, Victor.
> Robin
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list